October 13, 2015

Supermarkets Learn about “New” Kosher Standards to Compete for Broader Kosher Market

New York - Andre had just heard a mouthful about kosher, a concept he thought he fully grasped. After all, he was not prepared to hear one of the local rabbis ask him for a list of “yoshon” products. Andre thought he knew everything he needed to know to properly serve his constituents, including glatt kosher, cholov yisrael, and, of course, even “gebrokst” on Passover. But Yoshon? Yoshon stems from one of the 613 biblical commandments to refrain from eating grain from the new harvest until the second day of Passover, the time that the barley sacrifice called the Omer was brought in the Temple. The prohibited grain is called chodosh, which literally means new. Although, the Omer was brought from barley, as it is the first of grain crops to ripen, the restriction against eating new grain applies to five grain types which include wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt. Grain that was planted during or after Passover is chodosh and is not permitted until the following Passover. Another manager told Kosher Today that he was receiving more and more inquiries about Pas Yisroel which are grain-products that were cooked or baked with the participation of an observant Jew. The observant Jew must, at minimum, ignite the flame used to prepare, cook, or bake the grain product. Many observant Jews are particularly sensitive to this requirement during the High Holy Days.

Kosher food industry sources say that many mainstream supermarkets with significant kosher sections aim to satisfy the broader kosher community, which often includes customers that inquire about cholov yisrael, yoshon and pas yisroel. In its October 2015 edition, the OU’s Daf Hakashrus featured more than 150 brands and products that offer pas yisroel. The listing was timed to coincide with the high holy days when demand for pas yisroel products rises. One supermarket executive said that being aware of these special standards is extremely important “especially if we are going to compete against the large exclusive kosher supermarkets or even the small kosher groceries.”