Kosherfest took place last week at the Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. With COVID restrictions a thing of the past, Kosherfest was busier this year than last, with almost 5,000 people attending the trade show where everything is kosher over the course of two days. Hundreds of booths yielded many new products to try.
Kosherfest is only open to members of the trade. That leaves most people following from afar via social media or reading newspaper pieces like this one. Here is a quick wrap-up of the items that stood out the most from their peers and really made an impression, as well as some information regarding where you might find them in the real world in the coming months.
Let’s get to the countdown.
5. Crunchy Pineapple Bites, Pure Joy Snacks (San Antonio, Costa Rica)
Sometimes at Kosherfest a product really comes out of nowhere. That was the case this year with the fruit snacks from Costa Rica.
Joel Weinberger is the president of a company called PS Kosher Food Works. It’s a kosher consulting firm that works with the Star-K to help foreign food companies gain certification and distribution.
“We help the kosher community gain access to foreign products while helping companies in less privileged countries expand their business into new markets,” Weinberger said at Kosherfest.
Pure Joy Snacks is an existing company with some popular snacks in Costa Rica. They have a line that includes a few types of fruit (pineapple, banana, mango etc.) that are processed very carefully in a large factory.
The Star-K now supervises the factory where the pieces of fruit are dehydrated, microwaved and freeze-dried. The only ingredient is the fruit itself, making the process very easy to certify.
The pineapple was the most popular snack at the booth, mostly because the texture lent itself better to the process. Each chunk was kind of like a candy that was crunchy and hollow, yet packed with flavor.
Weinberger hopes to secure distribution for the snacks in the United States soon.
4. Vanilla Creamed Honey, Sunny Honey Miami (Miami, Florida)
This year’s winner in the Best in Jams, Preserves, Dips, and Spreads, Sunny Honey Miami was the best of the wide array of honey companies that exhibited at Kosherfest this year. Not only was their booth a great place to go to taste their products, but they were also able to explain what makes their honey different from the competition. Essentially, after extracting the honey, it is put into a machine that spins instead of letting it sit still. This allows them to control the size of the crystals in the honey and give it a smoother texture and taste.
Most interestingly, Mihaela Gutman, founder of Sunny Honey Miami, grew up in communist Romania with a beekeeper for an uncle. While almost everything was in short supply, honey was not. Her family used it for everything from a substitute for sugar to a natural medicine for cuts and scrapes.
“They used honey in everything because it’s what they had,” said Jorge Gutman, her husband and co-owner.
The company also strives to be environmentally friendly, as they use only glass bottles and are involved in several endeavors to keep bee populations intact.
Flavors of the creamed-honey line include key lime pie, cacao, coconut, lavender, matcha, and pumpkin spice, along with vanilla, my personal favorite.
Their products can be found in kosher supermarkets around the country.
3. Tachbisha Marinade, Tevony Sauces (Valley Stream, New York)
Walking around Kosherfest will sometimes allow you to not only sample a product, but also meet the person behind that product. A wonderful instance of this is with Tachbisha, a truly unique flavor with an interesting back story. Hagit Needelman started her company with just one thing in mind: She wanted to bottle the totally uniquely flavored sauce that her father invented 40 years ago so the whole world could taste her family tradition.
“It’s the sauce that gathers and unites families,” Needelman said. “It started in our family, but we now want to share it with the world.”
Not only does her sauce taste amazing, but it’s on the healthier side as well. It has no sugar, low sodium and no preservatives. And for those concerned about it being spicy with that bright orange color, don’t worry—it’s a strong flavor without being a spicy flavor. In fact, one of the slogans is “Spices Without the Spice.”
So what’s in it? The main ingredients are garlic, olive oil, turmeric, salt, paprika, lemon juice and lime juice. And while none of that sounds particularly groundbreaking, the combination is something you’ll have to try for yourself.
Other than the unique flavor, another noteworthy factor is its ability to be used for virtually anything. Over the course of the show, Needelman used it (mixed into mayo) as a dip, (mixed with artificial milk) as a sauce for gnocchi, and to flavor imitation ground beef to fill a taco shell. Each iteration was somehow better than the previous one.
Tachbisha is available in many kosher supermarkets all over the country.
2. Korean BBQ Sauce, Nongshim America (Fort Lee, New Jersey)
Nongshim is one of the largest food brands in South Korea, with a yearly revenue of around $2 billion. In the last decade, the company started an American division to look into foreign expansion in the United States and built two factories in California.
While some of their products are popular in America already, few of them are kosher. Yet the leadership of the American branch became interested in the kosher market a few years ago after a discussion with somebody who informed them that foreign products are hard to find with kosher certification.
The first product that they are trying to produce is a kosher version of authentic Korean BBQ sauce. No product is currently available on the kosher market that can duplicate the texture and flavor, leading to restaurants and home cooks having to attempt to make their own. The main difference between Korean and American BBQ sauce is that American BBQ sauce is tomato based, thicker and has a higher sugar content. The Korean version’s main ingredients are soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Nongshim’s plan is to start producing condiments that are certified kosher, but are marketed to the country at large.
“I think we can help with making some of these products available to the kosher consumer,” said Brad Chung, Nongshim America’s regional manager for the east coast. “Hopefully we can expand the palette of the kosher marketplace.”
At Kosherfest, they served the sauce on galbi, a Korean ground-beef dish.
There are still tweaks to be made to the recipe and bottling, but Nongshim is hoping to have the sauce on the shelves in the next year.
1. Peanut Butter Cornflakes Chocolate, 7th Heaven Chocolate (Kiryat Tiv’on, Israel)
One of the true revelations of last week was 7th Heaven Chocolates. Known in Israel as Panda Chocolate (the 7th Heaven branding was to avoid trademark issues in the United States), this is one of those items that will be a household name in no time.
Not only did these chocolates win the Best in Vegan award at Kosherfest, they also took home the grand prize of Best in Show as well.
Founded by vegans in Israel, the formula (a combination of different imitation milks and oils) was meant to perfectly imitate the taste and texture of milk chocolate without using any actual non-vegan products. After years in a lab, the result was unbelievable.
“We are so honored to win best in show,” said Zvika Bendet, the company’s head of U.S. business development. “It really shows what hard work can accomplish. We are really proud to have a product that duplicates the taste and feel of milk chocolate so well.”
The distribution should be worked out fairly soon, and they have 10 flavors to roll out immediately. My favorite was the Peanut Butter Cornflakes, but to each their own.
Nati Burnside is a freelance writer living in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. He can be reached at [email protected]