October 4, 2011

Don't Judge Kosher by the Bag

Abraham waited patiently on line at a local Flatbush bakery for the round challahs for Rosh Hashanah that is until his order was bagged in a paper shopping bag bearing the name of an Italian non-kosher bakery. “I feel very uncomfortable walking out of a kosher bakery with a bag like this,” he said pointedly and loudly. Hearing the commotion, the owner dismissed the complaint by the agitated customer: “What’s the big deal. I save money because I am able to buy these misprints at a fraction of the cost of a regular bag.” While it is not uncommon in many retail establishments, increasingly kosher retailers are using the bag as a marketing tool and in some cases as a status symbol. In Brooklyn, a customer is apt to make a statement with a Pomegranate bag, in Williamsburg with a Chestnut bag and in the Five Towns with a Gourmet Glatt bag. But Abraham attempted to draw me into the argument by saying that it was somehow unethical to put kosher products in a bag that clearly (or not so clearly) identifies a non-kosher establishment while I was instead thinking of the missed marketing opportunity of not having his own bag.

Of late, many of the kosher brands have partnered with retailers, recognizing the marketing opportunity of having their brands on shopping bags. Kosher nowadays is available in so many different outlets that the bag is no longer an indication of kashrus. A kosher shopper could well be lugging home kosher food from Target, Trader Joe’s or even a local Seven-Eleven. It isn’t even an automatic that an Italian sounding name will be non-kosher. Take Scotto’s in Boro Park, a former Italian bakery which now produces quality kosher pastries. So Abraham, take heart in that in today’s day and age there is a good likelihood that as far as kosher is concerned, it’s in the bag.

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