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There was an air of excitement, a feeling of pride and a hunger for innovation at Kosherfest 2009, which took place Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J. The event showcased not only the biggest and best kosher products from around the world, but also the newest kosher products on the market.
Aside from the typical kosher fare of smoked meats, breads, snacks, olive oils and pastry, there were kosher wines and liquors, pecan pie, hot croissants, mock shrimp and scallops, mozzarella sticks, wasabi peanuts, custom-imprinted cookies created on the premises, and chocolate-dipping fountains, as well as a section for new startup food companies looking for a distributor in various areas.
One reason for the many new items on show is the shifting demographics of the kosher consumer, according to Menachem Lubinsky, president of LUBICOM Marketing Consulting in Brooklyn, N.Y., which co-produces the annual event with Portland, Maine-based Diversified Business Communications. “The age of the average kosher shopper has changed dramatically in the past five years,” noted Lubinsky, who made similar observations during the State of the Kosher Food Industry address he delivered at the opening session of Kosherfest. “Nearly 45 percent of all kosher consumers in 2009 are below the age of 45, an increase from about 35 percent just five years ago. The changed demographics explain the mix of products that were showcased at the show.”
A few particular companies stood out, such as Hartford, Conn.-based Warren’s Foods, LLC (www.warrensfoods.com). Its relish, which tastes like salsa and comes in Hot, Medium and Mild flavors, was awesome. And you haven’t tasted a coffee cake until you’ve tried the ones from Grandpa’s Coffee Cakes, based in Miami Beach, Fla. (www.grandpascoffeecakes.com). Particularly good is the company’s apple-cinnamon-nut variety.
I also glimpsed an enormous shopping cart filled with kosher food and kosher energy-type drinks. One such beverage, Brain Toniq (www.braintoniq.com), billed as a healthy kosher alternative to Red Bull, won Best New Beverage in the competition phase of Kosherfest, held at the Marriott Glenpointe in Teaneck, N.J., two weeks before the trade show at the Meadowlands. More than 18 categories of food products were judged at the competition.
The world’s “first non-caffeinated think-drink specifically used to improve cognitive function and increase brain power” (or so promises Brain Toniq’s director of sales, Mark Loebach) was just one of many prominently displayed examples of the innovation and expansion of kosher food products into the mainstream.
Wines and spirits were plentiful at the show as well. The best that I sampled, Yarden, Inc. (www.yardenwines.com), hails from the premier winery in Israel, which produces a Cabernet that placed in Wine Spectator’s top 100 last year.
The most popular exhibitor at the first day of Kosherfest was Best in Show winner Luck Chen Steamed Noodles (www.luckchen.com). The booth was overrun with television and radio personnel, occupying the happy members of the company for hours. The positive energy of this company was palpable.
The most unbelievable display by far at Kosherfest, however, was the Kosher.com (www.kosher.com) booth, featuring a 16-foot-tall shopping cart overflowing with samples of the array of products available at the Web purveyor. “This is to drive home the point that we are the largest online kosher supermarket, and we have 15,000 products,” said chief marketing officer and “Quick & Kosher” author Jamie Geller of the kosher version of a combination of FreshDirect and Rachael Ray-style cooking recipes. “We brought it to Kosherfest to show everyone that this is the place to get anything and everything you want that is kosher.” I recommended to one of the Kosher.com reps that next year they should have a raffle to guess how many products were in this gigantic shopping cart, which must have had thousands of assorted products.
Featuring over 300 exhibitors — some first-timers — and hundreds of new products from 28 countries, Kosherfest attracted almost 7,000 industry professionals from around the world. In 2010, Kosherfest will be held Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center with new events, programs and seminars.
Jeremy Diamond is a consultant and president of The Diamond Group, based in Baltimore. Diamond has extensive knowledge of the grocery/food industry in Maryland, the Washington, D.C., area and Virginia. His family has been involved in the food business for over 50 years, having owned the 48-store Food-A-Rama chain in Maryland and Washington. Food-A-Rama gained second place in market share in the Maryland area before it was sold to Super Rite Foods, a predecessor to Supervalu. He can be reached at [email protected].