June 23, 2008

The Calendar

On any given week, I have occasion to speak to many people in the kosher food industry. Over the last few weeks, the topics usually included steep commodity price increases, the soaring fuel costs, increased shipping costs, and the developments in Postville. So it was a bit of a surprise when a leading distributor chose to talk about the Jewish calendar. This year’s Jewish calendar was a bit of good news for him, as his plans for the summer actually included a 10-day vacation. Rosh Hashanah this year falls on the eve of September 29th, almost a full month after Labor Day. “You don’t understand what that means for me. I can actually ship in early September rather than in late July, which is what happens when Rosh Hashanah falls at the beginning of the month. It reminded me of a joke I heard from comedian Jackie Mason: “The Jewish holidays are either late or early. They’re never on time.”

Those extra few weeks really will make a big difference in many markets. The return to school will be a separate event, which means that when people return from vacation, they will concentrate on restocking their pantries and probably will not begin to make pre-High Holy Days purchasing until the middle of the month. “It brings some order to a very hectic month,” the distributor told me. He even factored in the weather, making the assumption that it will be cooler by the end of September. So what’s the difference, I ask. “Ice cream versus soup,” he says. The calendar, say kosher food sources, makes a huge difference, particularly on the two busiest holidays of the year, Passover and the Fall. In 2009, Passover will begin 11 days before it did in 2008. 11 days, said the distributor, can make a huge difference in the life of a distributor. So what’s the best gift you can give someone who deals with kosher foods? Obviously a Jewish calendar.