September 29, 2008

A new day for kosher shoppers

Visiting several kosher stores in the last few weeks gave me pause to consider just how much has changed for the kosher shopper in the last decade. To be sure, the age-old mom & pop kosher grocery store has not disappeared entirely. You can still find the small cluttered kosher groceries in many Jewish neighborhoods, but they are in decline. In their stead is the new one-stop kosher supermarket which, in recent months, has moved into a whole new era with the launch of Pomegranate in Flatbush. This week, a modern specialty and gourmet store, Natural Gourmet, opened in the Five Towns on Long Island, as a compliment to the large Gourmet Glatt Emporium supermarket just across the street.

Throughout America, whether in exclusive kosher supermarkets or in major kosher sections in regular supermarkets, the kosher shopper is enjoying unparalleled choices and an unprecedented shopping experience. This revolution was fueled by a new generation of younger shoppers with their demand for more diversity in products, more variety in their diets, and more convenience foods to fit the pressured lifestyle of today. The changes in these upgraded stores are noticeable at every level. In bakery, many stores are offering an unprecedented array of breads and pastries. In meats and deli, the variety is a far cry from the limited cuts that the kosher butcher used to offer. In dairy, there are more kosher cheeses than ever before. In the freezer is an ever-growing assortment of convenience foods and meals. In fish, sushi is as much a staple as the traditional fish that was common in Jewish households for centuries.

But the modern kosher store offers even more, from fresh flowers to specialty foods that cater to celiacs, diabetics and people suffering from hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels. The kosher store of today also caters to the “patshke” generation with its assortment of cake mixes and ingredients to satisfy some of the recipes in the many new cookbooks, led by Susie Fishbein. With more than 100,000 items in the U.S. sporting kosher certification, the kosher shopper has an unprecedented array of choices, including a growing number of quality products from Israel. Life, say many old-timers, was a lot simpler back in the days when shopping meant making at least four stops: the grocer, kosher butcher, bakery and fish store. But in today’s lifestyle, making multi-stops is no longer an option, at least for most younger kosher shoppers. Shana Tova!