November 17, 2008

The Graying of the Kosher Food Market

The Kedem booth at Kosherfest has become over the years a beehive of activity. In almost every corner stood a group of buyers or kosher industry people eyeing some of the wines and foods that are part of the Kedem group of companies. But taking in the sight, I focused on a scene that perhaps holds a great deal of meaning for the future of the kosher food industry. In the center of each of the groups was a member of the Herzog family spanning three generations. The smooth transition between the generations appeared to commence without the bloodletting that has characterized other family businesses so widely covered in the press. At other booths too, especially in the family-owned kosher businesses, a new generation of young would-be-entrepreneurs were holding court next to their parents and grandparents, signaling that the kosher industry of yesterday was rapidly graying and that a new generation of kosher food producers was emerging.

Like in most inter-generational family owned businesses, the ascension of the younger group does not come without a price. There is the learning curve, the propensity for errors, and at times, gaps in the preservation of an image of a family brand. But the group I saw walking Kosherfest was full of enthusiasm, creative and prepared to take their family business to the next level. The older generation seemed fully prepared to let it happen. Even better, they were kvelling at some of the things that were already done by the younger members.

Whenever one sees the positive dynamics of a smooth transition in a family business, it is heartwarming. To see it happen to virtually an entire industry is inspirational. One father of a young man now practically running the company told me,“I have to admit that I was more than skeptical that he would be able to fill my shoes, but in the end he simply got himself bigger shoes and he fit those as well.”