Kosherfest, a two-day networking and nibbling convention for those working all facets of the kosher food industry, returned to the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, on November 9 and 10, after having been canceled last year due to the pandemic. Established companies were there to introduce new products and keep up visibility. Up and coming entrepreneurs made inroads with distributors. The most notable change was the absence of many overseas companies due to ongoing travel restrictions.
There were approximately 300 exhibitors. Healthier food is a growing category. In the new product competition, winners included a lower-calorie light challah and a line of pasta and noodles made from spelt flour. Sourdough is trending and expanding beyond the pandemic lockdown loaves. Aqua e Grano, a Brooklyn-based specialty pizza maker, is coming out with a line of frozen, ready-to-bake sourdough crusted pizza. Jonathan Mandel, CEO and founder of Swyft Breads, was there looking for help in commercially producing his Kalamata olive and za’atar sourdough bread. There’s always room for old favorites with a new twist. Meal Mart offered sliders with its three new pastrami flavors: pepper crusted, hot and spicy and honey mustard. I’m told they make a very tasty deli roll together with no other ingredients needed.
The Jewish Link Expanded Edition and The Jewish Link Wine Guide had a booth at Kosherfest for the first time. Publisher Moshe Kinderlehrer said, “It was a great opportunity to meet new businesses looking to get more exposure for their products by introducing them to our readership, and to maintain and strengthen our relationships with existing advertisers. We also wanted to promote the paper and our annual wine guide to the few remaining kosher food companies that have not yet included us in their advertising campaigns. It was also a great chance for our enhanced digital/social media team to show our expanding capabilities.”
Editor and Associate Publisher Elizabeth Kratz, who has attended the conference as both a Jewish Link reporter and as a culinary school student (at the school now known as the Kosher Culinary Center, headed by Chef Avram Wiseman), said she got a different perspective of the industry this year by talking to producers and suppliers about how they are getting new products through the pipeline. “I spoke to many talented entrepreneurs with a great product to sell but no knowledge of how to develop it on an industrial scale and then get it into the consumer’s hand. They started to get answers at Kosherfest by making connections with the right people at all points in the process. And we gave them advice about how to tell their stories through the media when they’re ready.”
In his “State of the Kosher Industry” address, Kosherfest organizer Menachem Lubinsky gave credit to the hashgacha agencies that sent mashgichim for about 25,000 visits all over the world last year to keep kosher food in production. Although supply chain problems have been felt everywhere, Lubinsky said there have been no total product shortages; if one kosher brand became unavailable, there was another to take its place. Retailers survived as people learned new ways to shop. New restaurants are opening despite the pandemic struggles.
Although Kosherfest is open to the trade only, consumers are the beneficiaries. The deals just made at Kosherfest will bring exciting new products into your shopping cart in the months ahead.
By Bracha Schwartz