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Kosher transitions from tradition to trendy

SECAUCUS, N.J. — The 2011 Kosherfest confirmed what many in the industry already know — kosher products are in high demand by a growing number of both Jewish and non-Jewish consumers. 

Consider that according to research from Lubicom marketing, while there are 1.3 million year-round kosher Jewish consumers, there are 3.5 million who are either Muslim or observant of other religions who are eating kosher products. And religious beliefs aren’t the only driver for kosher purchases. According to the survey, 55% say they buy kosher products because of then health and safety associated with producing kosher food. 

That growing acceptance, and desire, for more kosher products is changing the way food retailers promote and sell this segment. As Menachem Lubinsky, president and CEO of Lubicom Marketing Consulting explained during his keynote address to Kosherfest attendees, stores that carried kosher items weren’t doing much to promote it a few years ago and today are actively telling consumers about it. He cited Whole Foods as an example of a company that long had kosher food, but only recently started letting customers know about it.

Regardless of the level of promotion, food retailers are becoming more kosher friendly and are devoting more linear feet to kosher products, especially poultry frozen and dairy. Lubinsky also noted, that while independent kosher supermarkets can carry more items than traditional retailers, major retailers have the merchandising expertise and can often buy better than the independents. This means more competition — and more choices — for kosher consumers.

Many of the trends in the general food industry are reflected in the kosher industry, which was made apparent by the variety of products showcased by the more than 350 exhibitors at the 23rd annual convention. For example, The Kedem Group, the largest purveyor of kosher food products, has several gluten-free offerings including pasta. However, as Mordy Herzog, of Royal Wine Corp., a division of The Kedem Group, pointed out to RetailingToday.com during a tour of the company’s booth, making products gluten free (as well as meeting such other dietary needs as lactose free) is nothing new for a company that has a long history of making products that comply with kosher law, which excludes the consumption of foods made with wheat on Passover.

Another example of a general food trend that has also impacted the kosher world is the growing foodie community, whose members include those who want to observe dietary laws without sacrificing their gourmet tastes. For many companies, including The Manischewitz Company, this means offering less traditional items that appeal more to the next generation of kosher consumers. Paul Bensabat, CEO, offered the example of Manischewitz’s Moroccan fish balls, of which the main ingredient is carp, the same ingredient used to make gefilte fish, a traditional Eastern European loaf, as a means of the company venturing into new areas as kosher tastes change.

Looking ahead, Lubinsky sees stores offering more variety and greater competition at the retail level, which is good news for consumers who want kosher products that are as good or better than their non-kosher counterparts. However, noted Lubinsky, “There are still people that don’t understand that this is an industry that is evolving.” 

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