January 16, 2012

The American Market is Wide Open for Israeli Foods

Elsewhere in this issue is a story about the growing demand for Israeli food products, not just by Israelis but by many other kosher consumers. Israel in 2012 continues to produce quality food items in quite impressive packaging. There are, of course, the bellwethers that long turned their brands into a major category in the kosher market, but the secondary tier of companies seem not to be able to capture the full dimensions of their opportunity. For example, some companies that appear at Kosherfest in the Israeli pavilion sponsored by the Israel Export Institute are invariably “taken” by a distributor and end their penetration into the American market there. These distributors often do not invest in marketing, handle thousands of other items, and may even be restricted in the scope of their geographic or store distribution. It would seem that this “hit and run” attitude is depriving some of these brands of reaching their fullest potential. While Europe and other markets might seem an attractive target, there  is no market that is more receptive to Israeli products than the American kosher market.

At last year’s Kosherfest I met an Israeli manufacturer who was so thrilled that he found a distributor that he already predicted that his product would appear “next year in my distributor’s booth.” But visit as I do many stores in New York and elsewhere, I only found his product in a select few stores in Boro Park.  And then there are those Israeli companies with great products that do not even try. They are so fearful of the expense and the process that they let a golden opportunity slip away. As much as I have faith in American kosher food distributors, I also want to make sure that some exceptional products from Israel are not shortchanged.