June 29, 2015

Gourmet Kosher: Too Much or Too Little

I recently met a young French Jewish transplant to New York who seemed to have a passion for upscale kosher foods. He was extremely critical of what he said is passed off as gourmet kosher food in this country, certainly when compared with what he is used to from his home country. “I wouldn’t say that you haven’t made progress,” he said, “but you have a long way to go.”  He rattled off a long list of products from breads to the meats. I couldn’t help but chuckle when within a few days, shopping in one of the “upscale” kosher supermarkets in Brooklyn, a young woman shopping with her husband, whom I knew from the neighborhood, remarked, “who needs all those gourmet products? What’s wrong with regular good food?” I am not sure that she represents the majority of kosher shoppers, but it got me thinking. One person thinks that we don’t have enough while another thinks we have too much of gourmet.

Some of my friends in the industry think that as a group there is a desire, especially by younger customers, for more gourmet items, especially if they have a particular theme or are based on some authentic international cuisine. I did not get much in the way of “too much.” Here is one comment worth repeating: “It depends what you define as gourmet. To me it’s something creative and different that goes along with good taste.” As I shopped the “upscale” store, I found some of those products in the prepared food section, in the snack aisle, and in some of the aisles with specialty items. You can recognize them by the packaging and frequently by the price. After embarking on this small research project, I am pretty sure that the kosher consumer on balance wants more and not less gourmet.