Kosherfest is always an ideal opportunity to catch up on the “breaking news” in the kosher food industry. Each year has its own buzz, such as who’s buying whom, who’s doing well and who is not, and so forth. This year I was struck by a great deal of retail buzz.
I counted no less than six openings planned over the next year to year and a half. While most of the breaking news seemed to revolve around independents, the big chains have not given up on kosher either. There was even some talk about an expansion into several stores by a discount chain. So why am I not listing them here? I have learned over the years that Kosherfest buzz is not necessarily rock solid. So I usually step back, but the fact that so much is happening in kosher retail was worthy of a second look.
As some of the experts noted at Kosherfest, the kosher industry has truly become a tale of two cities. There is a segment of the market that is growing at historic proportions, most notably in the Orthodox communities. At the same time there is a decline in some communities as religious observance is declining. In the growth communities, there are many opportunities to expand retail while in the declining communities, much will be needed to rekindle an interest in kosher that was so prevalent less than a generation ago.
The growth segment is younger with larger families and is extremely interested in new products, nicer food presentation, and stores that have wide aisles and a pleasant shopping experience. The non-growth segment is more of an occasional shopper, perhaps on Chanukah and Passover, and is content with a much more limited selection in the kosher set. Many of the younger Jews are intermarrying and shunning any semblance of Jewish religious observance, including kosher. While many of us in the industry sensed the enormous changes that were taking place, the buzz at the recent Kosherfest confirmed it.