October 25, 2011

The Changing Demographics of Kosher

In an upscale restaurant in Boro Park, a group of 20ish Chasidic Jews were using chopsticks to eat tempura and other sushi dishes. In an Upper West Side eatery, a modern Orthodox Jew of about 25 was eating Cholent, the traditional Shabbat dish that has emerged as a daily staple in many restaurants. In a Florida supermarket, a young woman with two children in tow, was buying fancy frozen desserts, a bag of tacos, and three bottles of exotic sauces. I am not suggesting that these young people have abandoned the more traditional foods. Indeed, the sale of these prepared foods continues to soar. You can still see many of these consumers at the take-out counter but their basket is likely to include dips and sauces as well as such deli items as turkey cubes for salads and turkey-pastrami

While many in the kosher food industry have taken notice and adjusted their shelves accordingly, some are still not tuned in to these dramatic changes in the profile of the kosher consumer. One young couple exiting a Flatbush store, labeling it as “very bland.” Their argument was that the store did not sell sushi and high-end chocolate in bulk. One direct benefit of the movement towards healthier ingredients and foods is that it crosses age lines. Many younger consumers suffer from celiac disease or other intestinal disorders which has made gluten-free such a major category in kosher stores. There is an overall movement towards healthier foods by all groups. But there is a huge “cholent” crowd who also covet good meat products. Many of these younger consumers enjoy exotic cheeses and especially great tasting wines. Yes, it is time to smell the coffee, particularly if it is of the Green Mountain variety that comes out of the Keurig.