May 28, 2024
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Kosherfest Inspires Companies Large and Small

Secaucus—Kosherfest, which took place November 15 and 16 at the Meadowlands Exposition Hall, challenges the conventional wisdom that what used to be known as easily definable kosher, is nothing like what it was years ago.

In earlier generations, there would be incredible excitement when a well-known product, such as Oreos, Coca-Cola or Saltines, would attain a reliable hashgacha. Those of us who only ate kosher food would relish our great fortune in the acquisition of something that we always watched others eat but in which we were not able to partake.

At an Israeli-style business breakfast before the exhibition began, Menachem Lubinsky, CEO of Lubicom Marketing Consulting and Kosherfest’s founder, recalled 28 years ago when the first display of kosher products took place in a “grand” fashion. Vendors put their food on long wooden tables and there were far fewer categories and choices.

Today, with well over 300 vendors displaying their wares, careful time and consideration had been taken by companies in how they displayed their products, including what products they should provide for Kosherfest attendees to taste; whether they were new flavors, raw ingredients, beverages, spices, sauces, meats or pastries.

In addition to the frum or well-known national kosher companies such as Manischewitz, Empire Kosher, Kedem/Kayco and Paskesz, companies who have displayed their products at Kosherfest for years, there were also statuesque, pavilion-like displays from various countries representing new flagship products and ingredients. The countries included Israel, Korea, Australia, Italy, Argentina, India, Spain, Japan, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Bulgaria, Chile, Turkey, the UK, Mexico and Canada. Companies representing the deep South, California, the Midwest and many other areas of the states were also present.

Wineries from across the world represented the newest and finest in flavors and aromas. The latest liqueurs were on display, with the majority being pareve and several dairy.

All major kashrut supervision organizations from the United States, Canada, England and even Australia and New Zealand were represented. Food producers interested in reaching the kosher community were able to sit and discuss what steps it would take for them to allow products to be purchased by a kosher consumer.

Smaller food producers are often anxious to have their already-kosher products displayed more prominently in the kosher market. Those individuals attend Kosherfest to make connections with various food distributors. Larger national supermarket representatives as well as regional kosher supermarket proprietors attended Kosherfest as a means of meeting with distribution partners, developing new contacts and getting the lay of the land for the coming year.

However, for many attendees in the New Jersey community, Kosherfest was an opportunity to see “what was out there, and what was new,” in kosher; an owner of a prominent Teaneck catering establishment told us he had seen three or four truly unique products at Kosherfest this year. Staff from a newly developing bakery business from Passaic told The Jewish Link that they were there to look for new ideas and inspiration for their own business, considering that they were a few years away from displaying their wares at Kosherfest themselves.

Another small set of individuals who now attend Kosherfest are self-described “kosher foodies,” who even throw their own annual “Kosherfeast” the night before Kosherfest begins each year. Run by Roberta Scher of Koshereye.com and Esti Berkowitz of Prime Time Parenting, the event brings together what is now a vibrant community of gourmands, kosher food writers and bloggers together to discuss the latest in the gourmet and kosher marketplace. Prominent cookbook writers including Norene Gilletz, Paula Shoyer, Levana Kirschenbaum and Jamie Geller are part of this growing and enthusiastic community.

Regardless, some favorite items included pastries featuring chocolate cheese buns and sweet cheese bagels from a Montreal-based wholesale bakery called Crusters.

California Gourmet, a chocolate chip company that stepped into the breach when Trader Joe’s chocolate chips went OU-dairy, was at Kosherfest distributing small cups of their signature Belgian chocolate chips for the second year in a row. Joining California Gourmet this year was the Burgers Bar product line (the owners are cousins!), with Crunions (crispy onions) as their delicious and most popular product, which has recently become a top seller on Amazon. Burgers Bar, a popular hamburger restaurant in Israel, launched retail outposts unsuccessfully in the States within the past decade, but their unique toppings and sauces (including the crispy onions and garlic and herbed mayonnaise), many of which Israel gap-year students remember fondly, have proved profitable via internet sales.

Useful to bakers is the newest product from Palisades Paper of Spring Valley, cupcake holders made of kosher-certified*, grease-proof parchment paper, a significantly less-sticky product than the paper usually used to produce cupcake liners. (*Certain types of parchment papers require kosher certification due to coatings containing Quilon, which contains stearic acid and can be made from tallow. Other coatings are also made from citric acid, and can present an issue on Pesach as well. A company under Star-K certification, however, manufactures a kosher alternative to Quilon, called Neccoplex.)

Sally Williams, originating from England and sold in Harrod’s, was a first-time Kosherfest exhibitor, offering a new and different honey nougat candy treat. From Lakewood, New Jersey, was also a new and exciting dairy dessert from Gevinni Cheesecake.

Speaking of cheesecake, Aunt Butchie’s Desserts featured almond-based cones filled with cheese, known as “cheesecake cones.” The cones caused quite a stir and inspired many sugar-highed Instagram posts.

To bring us closer down to earth, Health Garden, Inc from Spring Valley, New York, presented many new types of lower- or zero-calorie sweeteners such as coconut sugar and monk fruit sugar.

By Nina Glick and Elizabeth Kratz

 

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