In a recent interview with Channel 12 in New Jersey, the reporter asked me what I would be looking for at next week’s Kosherfest. Truth be told that I have quite a list of interest points that I watch but up at the top are the bellwethers that help define the kosher industry. Defining bellwethers at this juncture in the growth of the kosher industry is not an easy task since a number of the exhibitors are certainly in the $150 - $200 million category and beyond. A few are well on their way into making it in mainstream markets. So, for the purpose of why I watch the bellwethers, let’s define them as the ethnic kosher companies. The big three are Kedem, Manischewitz and Osem. Kedem and all of its food and wine affiliates and divisions is a trendsetter in many respects, led by the Herzog family which has taken kosher wine and foods to a whole new level. The Herzogs have brought innovation, class and quality to the kosher food industry. Manischewitz, now in its 123rd year is a household name not only in kosher but in many American homes. Now under the leadership of Paul Bensebat and Alan Bankier, the company continues to reinvent itself with many new products and even a whole new modern look. Paul is very proud of his Moroccan roots and has even of late introduced Moroccan style fish balls, “a line extension for gefilte,” some in the industry joke. Osem USA, under the leadership of Izzet Ozdogan has done a remarkable job in introducing an American audience to the quality products of one of Israel’s food giants. But in doing so, he has shown a strong interest in the community and has on many occasions donated a portion of sales to charity.
The three companies have in recent years taken kosher to a whole new level with many new and exciting products. There is always much activity in their booths and much that is new. So, it is no wonder that I will be watching these bellwethers very carefully.