November 21, 2011

It’s All About the Buzz

Enough said about all of the new and interesting products at Kosherfest, the great seminars, the amazing Chefs competition, and the impressive crowds of food executives. This is about the buzz at the show, which is the way I judge success at the show. For two days, there was an unsurpassed energy at the show. There was a level of excitement that was unprecedented. The buzz seemed to be about the fascinating product mix that seemed to showcase a new world of kosher in a way that was unprecedented. Perhaps this was a show that was abuzz about an industry in transition that may have been so vividly illustrated in the booth that took you back to the gaslight huts of the candlestick maker and then fast forwarded to the magnificently upgraded booths of some of the largest kosher food companies. The energy was felt in the aisles as even some of the most seasoned visitors were impressed with the endless array of new items and the excitement was of an industry that seemed to feel that it was on the cusp of even more dramatic growth.

Over the two days, I somehow managed to speak to hundreds of visitors and the consensus was of enormous pride that a small niche industry only two or three decades ago was today “a major growth sector” in the food industry. Yes, I remember the show 23 years ago when some 69 companies showed up, mostly in pipe and drape booths, with a presentation of foods that was very much vintage kosher of the 1900’s and typical of the foods that were so popular in Eastern Europe and then on the Lower East Side at the turn of the century. To be sure, some of those foods were still there but even they were in new versions, new packaging and new presentations. In short, nothing is still the same even if it is gefilte fish (now mostly frozen loaves and available in so many different varieties). So, I have a major confession to make: When I began this enterprise 23 years ago, I did have a dream that kosher would one day be what it is today, but I am also dreaming of a kosher world that 23 years hence will have taken mainstream by storm. Let us hope and pray!