Kosherfest

On Nov. 11 and 12, 340 companies filled 400 booths in the 80,000-square-foot exhibition hall in the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J. – all part of the 26th annual Kosherfest, the trade show of the kosher food industry.

Kosher is big business. The number of Americans who are believed to keep kosher year-round is 1.3 million, and the number of goods produced in the U.S. with a kosher symbol exceeds $300 billion in sales. More than 200,000 items on U.S. supermarket shelves are under kosher certification – with approximately 2,500 items newly certified in 2013.

As attendees approached the exhibition hall, they were greeted by a truck offering free samples of Tofutti “Cuties” – before even entering the hall! I always find it helpful to sit for a few moments with a map and schedule or even come up with a game plan. I usually set out down the aisles – in order – from booths 100 to 753. Time permitting, I might catch one of the many mincha minyans held throughout the day, or watch some of the Kosherfest 7th Annual Culinary Competition, featuring three chefs and hosted by Chef Paula Shoyer. But visiting the booths – for info and samples – is key!

It is always comforting to see old familiar ‘faces’ – Guss’ Pickles, Gold’s, Empire Kosher Poultry, and the KOF-K and Star-K kosher supervision agencies. Many of these old reliable companies are still producing new products. Manischewitz, for example, debuted its Gluten Free Brownie Mix, Gluten Free Matzo Ball Mix and gave away cans of its Kosherfest 2014 “Best New Kosher for Passover” Carrot Cake Macaroons. They also invited visitors to enter their Chanukah House Kit contest. Empire was proudly showing off their Gourmet Spicy Apple Chicken Sausage, a blend of sweet and spicy with no nitrates or fillers.

Along with the food, there was also some fun. Entertaining the crowd were two gregarious Japanese men, who spent two days making sushi at their booth to promote extra spicy Srirachi sauces: chili and spicy mayo.

Many companies are offering healthier products, often geared to such specialty markets as gluten free. ProTings chips, in such tasty flavors as key lime, sea salt and tangy southern barbeque, have 15 grams of protein in a four-ounce bag and they are vegan and gluten free. Matt’s Munchies, the premium fruit snack, is gluten free and vegan, and Mauzone Mania offer low in carbs, high in fiber treats like biscotti, breadsticks and flatters. Azuma Gourmet has been producing seaweed salad for fifteen years; for the past four years, their sesame seaweed hummus, hijiki quinoa salad and seaweed salads have been available in Costco. Deebee’s won the award for best overall new product/best new frozen dessert. Their “teapops” are organic, gluten free, pareve and only 25 to 50 calories, and come in such flavors as minty mint, tropical mango and toasted coconut.

Despite the surge in healthy, more traditional meat products still abound. Attendees couldn’t get enough of such products as Jack’s Gourmet Beef merguez; U.S. Bison was promoting kosher bison meat – grass fed, antibiotic free, organic certification pending.

Many products come with interesting back stories: On the market only five months, NoMoo Cookies took home the 2014 Kosherfest New Product Competition (Best New Breads and Baked Goods) for its ginger cookie. The company was launched by an architect who loved to bake. His cookies, in eight flavors, are pareve. Allie’s GF Cookies was founded in 2014 by Allison Luckman, who was motivated to create her gluten free baked goods when her son, who suffers from an egg allergy, said, “I don’t like the sweets out there – can you make it taste better?” Allie started baking him special treats. She now bakes gluten free, nut free, coconut free, kosher baked goods, including cakes, rugelach, brownies, cupcakes, mousse and more.

I was delighted to discover one company at Kosherfest from our own Nutmeg State. Raul and Marissa Felix started the Connecticut Coconut Company in 2005. Their plant is in Shelton and their warehouse is in Waterbury. Originally from the Philippines, the Felixes are eager to explain why the coconut tree is considered “the tree of life.” “You can build your house from the wood of the tree, you can drink coconut milk, and you can get oil, flour and sugar! You can live from the coconut tree and have income from it!” Their organic coconut sugar is two years old and is under Star-K kosher supervision. “The response has been very positive. Everybody loves sugar and ours is raw and unrefined,” notes Marissa Felix.

(Source: http://www.jewishledger.com)

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SECAUCUS, N.J. – Warren Webber has enjoyed his long career in the electronics business. But nine years ago, he decided to venture into the relish business.

“It started as a joke,” the gregarious West Hartford resident told the Ledger from his Warren’s Foods booth at Kosherfest 2011 in the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, New Jersey in October. The two-day kosher food trade show featuring kosher food, foodservice, drink, wine and Jewish gifts from around the world is the largest of its kind.

“It was a 60 year old recipe,” says Warren.”
“He tweaked it and tweaked it!” adds wife, Carol, as the couple scooped samples of “Webber’s Original Relish—Olde Tyme Pepper Recipe” and “Louie’s Original Salsa” onto scooping chips for curious visitors to sample.
TheWarren’s Food websitedescribes the relish, which comes in mild, medium and hot, as “an all natural kosher product created with no preservatives and produced in Connecticut.”  Both products are bottled in New Haven and are available in 177 stores from Connecticut to New Jersey.

While the Webbers were the only Connecticut company with a booth at the 23rd annual Kosherfest, they were not the only “mom and pop” company on hand.   Viktoria Sater, a Long Island mother of three, recently started Viktoria’s Gourmet Foods.  She and her husband offered samples of Viki’s Granola to visitors.  Dawn Wolstein-Petrini and her  husband, Mauro, owners of the Gelato Shoppe Petrini, were also busy dishing out a dozen flavors of dairy and pareve gelato from their cart.  Rabbi Adam Mintz, spiritual leader of the Congregation Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, a Modern Orthodox shul on New York’s Upper West Side, along with his wife and several friends who were decked out in royal blue “The Chosen Mint” t-shirts, were giving out samples of “Rabbi Mintz’ Classic Kosher Mints.”

Of course, more established companies like Manischewitz and Osem had large display booths.  Well-known companies like Dr. Prager’s, Gold’s Horseradish and Guss’ Pickles were also on hand, giving out samples of products, old and new. Countries displaying kosher products included Israel, Argentina, the Philippines, Finland, Canada, England, Australia, France, Scotland, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan, and the Former Soviet Union.
Israeli companies received several new product awards: for best new frozen entrée (Ta’amati Meat Flavor Meatless bourekas); best new jam or preserve (Tishbi Passion Fruit Champagne Preserve); best new dips, spreads, salsas (Sabra Guacamole); and best new savory and salty snack food (Bamba Halva).

An Argentinean company, Marumatok SA, won an award for best new wine, beer or spirit (Fincas Marumatok Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec).

All visitors to Kosherfest were made aware of a few very important facts about today’s kosher food market:  there are an estimated 12,250,000 kosher consumers in the U.S. who help support a $12,500,000,000 market in kosher food. Given that only 1.3 million of these people are Jewish year-round kosher consumers, it stands to reason that many of the consumer who buy kosher include others, including Muslim halal consumers, and those looking for vegetarian and non-dairy products.

According to Menachem Lubinsky, founder and co-producer of Kosherfest, “Natural, healthy and gluten-free products continue to grow among new kosher product categories, as an estimated 18 million people in the U.S. are sensitive to gluten.”

Examples of products that appeal to these demographics that were on display at this year’s Kosherfest include Mon Cuisine Vegetarian Entrees, Sage V Foods’ IQF Rice (individually quick frozen) and various meat-free, vegetable protein entrees from Wholesome Cuisine.

Companies like Manischewitz continue to innovate and diversify. “We strive to be a 52 week a year company—not just for Passover,” reports Alain Bankier, co-president and CEO of the Manischewitz Company.  His company introduced more than forty new products in such categories as Mediterranean food, comfort food and health and wellness food.  They will also be introducing vending machines in such locations as airports that carry frozen blintzes, egg rolls and knishes which can be heated to the proper temperature and level of crispness.  And Gold’s Horseradish company now manufacturers such  “modern” products as duck sauce, salsa and wasabi that sit on grocery store shelves next to oldies-but-goodies like borscht and schav.

(Source: http://www.jewishledger.com)

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SECAUCUS, N.J. – In his keynote presentation entitled, “State of the Kosher Industry: The Transition of Kosher Foods to a New Level,” Menachem Lubinsky, President and CEO of LUBICOM Marketing Consulting, pointed out just how far the kosher food industry has come. “In the early years, there were nine booths with potato kugel. Then there were 10 or 12 booths displaying sponge cake. Now, there are gourmet and health products–change has come to the kosher food industry in a dramatic way !”

Lubinsky was referring to the rows and rows of booths at Kosherfest, the trade show for the kosher food industry, which took place Oct. 26 and 27 at the Meadlowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J. Kosherfest is the yearly gathering of everyone who’s anyone in the kosher food industry-manufacturers, distributors, certifying agencies, cookbook authors, magazines, camps, restaurants, caterers and more.

Lubinsky further notes that today’s kosher consumer is much younger, more health conscious, and has learned to navigate the retail map, shopping in a variety of stores –from supermarkets, to smaller independent kosher markets, to stories like Costco.

A walk through the aisles at the two-day show gave a glimpse of the 125,000 kosher products now available in U.S. supermarkets, produced in the plants of 10,650 kosher producing companies–all contributing to a market with a dollar value of $12,500,000,000.

Old favorites displaying products include Manischewitz, Streit, Tulkoff, Barton’s Chocolates, Gold’s and Osem. But even these companies came with new products and new packaging.

There were corporate “tie ins,” too. Cookbook author, Susie Fishbein, was promoting her new book, “Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings,” in front of the Kolatin kosher gelatin booth, and Jamie Geller, author of “Quick and Kosher Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing” and the new “Quick and Kosher: Meals in Minutes,” was distributing recipe cards at the Kosher.com booth. There are many new, tasty products to look for on super market and specialty store shelves. Chocolate raspberry macaroons by Lily Bloom’s Kitchen, were voted both best new dessert/candy and Best In Show-First Runner Up.

Elite Natural 100% Organic Juices, with a plant in Ankara, Turkey, offers an assortment of juices, including pear, quince, honeydew melon and pomegranate. President, Ali Suman and Vice President Mark Rollino were happy to answer all of my questions, including number of watermelons it takes for one bottle of their watermelon juice (it takes 8). The juice was voted Kosherfest’s Best New Beverage; and, in case you wanted to know, it takes 20 or 23 pomegranates to fill a bottle of the company’s pomegranate juice and in development is a juice made of persimmons.

Kind Healthy Snacks offered samples of its six new all natural gluten free flavors (my favorites: apple cinnamon and pecan, and pomegranate blueberry pistachio + antioxidants). Big Apple Pretzels passed out soft pretzels. Freund’s Fish Market had sushi for the taking. Steve Katz, owner of Katz’s Bakery in Southfield, Mich. was handing out very tasty seven layer cake samples.

A record number of countries were represented — from Poland to Ecuador, Argentina, Canada, Lithuania, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Spain, Australia, China and of course, Israel. Osem chefs prepared Israeli whole wheat and tri-color cous cous. Vegetali vegetarian hot dogs in a blanket was voted Best New Fine Food from Israel (and they had many other wonderful vegetarian products–including Moroccan cigars). Neviot is hoping to soon bring their bottled water and flavored water to the American market; the Etz Hazait Collection of oils of Haifa, marketed as “The recipe for good health,” is also “not here yet but looking to be here,” according to Shirley Rocheli, company spokesperson.

Other items of interest include Sue Fishkoff’s new book “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority;” a new bi-monthly kosher food magazine, entitled “Kosher Inspired;” “New York Kosher News,” a free publication of Kashrus Magazine focusing on New York and New Jersey area kashrut news.

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