December 20, 2010

Kosher in a Mainstream Show

The Summer Fancy Food Show last week at New York’s Javits Center was yet another opportunity to keep in touch with the many people I know in the food industry. In some ways, I found the show pretty much a mirror of the way I came to know the event nearly 25 years ago with some exceptions, of course. There were some distinct differences, particularly when it comes to kosher, yet another indication of the strides that kosher has made in just the last quarter of a century. The number of booths that touted their kosher symbol was unprecedented, as was the listing in the Directory (some 350 booths) under the “kosher” category and the sheer number of new products in the Focused Kosher Showcase. There were several booths from the larger kosher food companies that are at the center of Kosherfest but only another booth at the Fancy Food Show. But most impressive were the number of exhibitors and visitors who were clearly from the kosher community and the booths that posted their kosher certification.
Gil Marks, a close friend and author of several kosher cookbooks, pointed out some of the new trends that he witnessed at the show. On the verge of completing an unprecedented Encyclopedia on Jewish Food, Gil pointed to the many booths showcasing Greek Yogurt and the significant increase of natural and organic products. I noticed that “new” does not necessarily mean new, just tweaked. It might be the shape of a bottle for honey or olive oil or a fusion of flavors that was not classical. The blend of flavors was also very much apparent in the gourmet sauces. But then there were the traditional pastries, cheeses, confectionary and even gift baskets. You could always wash down the oodles of samples that were offered with a new flavored natural passion fruit drink. A buyer from a specialty store who recognized me from Kosherfest said: “This is huge and interesting but no show offers the buzz that Kosherfest does.