For years consumers who keep kosher in Livingston have been asking managers at the Kings supermarket on South Livingston Avenue to stock more kosher offerings. With shelf space at a premium and a wine store leasing a portion of the Kings market for its business, it just wasn’t a possibility.
Then the wine store said it would not be renewing its lease. That, said Yakov Yarmove, corporate director of ethnic marketing and specialty foods at Albertsons Companies, was a blessing in disguise because “suddenly, we had this great space.”
Also fortuitous was the fact that Kings is now a division of the Albertsons, which provides kosher food sections in many of its markets nationwide, with offerings tailored to the areas and needs of the local community.
“Albertsons really understands kosher. We know how to do this, and the question became ‘How do we do it in the space we have?’” said Yarmove.
Kosher food is at least a $12.5 billion industry in the United States, according to Lubicom Marketing Consulting, with more than 190,000 products available. It is a sector that is continuing to grow each year.
Unofficial estimates put the Jewish population of Livingston as around 12,500 individuals or nearly half of the township’s residents. The town is home to two Modern Orthodox shuls and a Jewish day school, as well as a Conservative and Reform synagogue. In other words, there is definitely a core group that is looking for kosher food on a regular basis.
To ensure that they provided the right products—and not, Yarmove said, just the traditional stuff people think of as kosher—those involved with the new kosher section took into account the Jewish demographics of the neighborhood and what residents were likely seeking to figure out the store’s mix of offerings.
For the Livingston community that meant a “special focus on products from Israel,” as people indicated that they wanted to support Israel or wanted the food items they’d enjoyed while in the Jewish State, such as Osem products or Tirat Zvi packaged deli.
Other offerings in the kosher section include snacks, packaged cheeses, hot dogs, a large variety of frozen foods, and even Havdalah candles, not to mention fresh Empire chicken and Meal Mart meats.
Lauren Samot, a mother of two who lives in Livingston, said the Kings kosher section is “definitely an asset and a win for the community.” She pointed out that the store is centrally located and as a smaller supermarket, it is easy to run to and get what you need quickly—something that appeals to both seniors who may have mobility issues and young mothers with babies at home.
Beyond that, “When people move to a new place they want to know what the kosher amenities are, and the more kosher options that are available the more people will want to move here,” Samot added. (In addition to Kings, the nearby ShopRite operates its own kosher section called “the Shuk,” which includes a variety of fresh and frozen kosher options, as well as packaged prepared foods.)
Yarmove said Kings wants to find and stock the new and exciting kosher products that will get customers excited as they plan their meals. He also hopes the variety of products inspires those Jewish shoppers who aren’t necessarily kosher consumers to see that kosher isn’t just something their grandparents did.
The ultimate goal, Yarmove said, is to give people the experience of walking into a store they will feel comfortable shopping in. “It’s not ‘if you build it they will come’; you have to build what they want and then they will come.”
With the Yomim Tovim set to begin in less than two weeks, the focus now will be on ensuring the store has the right mix of products and availability for the holidays. Beyond that, “We will continue to look to make modifications in the selections as we get customer feedback,” said Yarmove.
“The Kings supermarket family has been close to the Jewish community for decades,” he said, “and at the end of the day, we will continue to move that [relationship] forward.”