A record number of people turned out yesterday for the opening day of the 25th annual trade show for kosher food, ingredients, equipment and food service at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, which featured 200,000 products with ingredients from 99 countries.
“People came from 21 countries and 31 states in the United States,” Menachem Lubinsky of Lubicom, a co-producer of the show, told VIN News. “There was a big emphasis on gluten free and a lot of innovative products, but the biggest news is that Kosher Fest is now 25 years old. Jumping back to that first year, we had 69 booths and less than 600 visitors. Today, we have almost 400 booths and we are estimating that this year we will have a total of about 9000 visitors.”
Video Credit: Stefano Giovannini/VINnews.com
Mobile users click here
Certifying a product as kosher can be a smart marketing move, attracting more than just the kosher consumer.
“It is kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” explained Evan Berman of Frava, a caffeinated fruit juice that comes in four flavors and is marketed at 18 to 29 year olds who are looking for a caffeine boost.
While kosher staples like horseradish and herring shared space with macaroons and bagels, there was no doubt at Kosher Fest that the kosher consumer’s palate is evolving over time.
“We try to be innovative for the kosher industry,” said Mikee Kaufman of Mikee Foods. “We don’t want to walk into stores anymore and see a big hispanic department, a big asian department and a shrinking kosher aisle. Younger people today don’t just live in their apartments. They live in the whole world and they want to see things from Spain and things from Mexico not just gefilte fish and matza and borscht.”
Video credit: Yosef Shidler
Mobile users click here
Mikee Foods took home the Best New Pasta, Rice, Beans or Soup award this year for its Mikee Mac, a boxed non-dairy macaroni and cheese product and Kaufman displayed an entire array of foods under a banner that read “You won’t believe it’s parve.” Among the 130 products in the Mikee foods line are alfredo sauce, nacho cheese dip and ranch dressing, all of which are marketed under the Kosher Farms label and are pareve.
Corim Industries of Brick, New Jersey took home the coveted Best Overall New Product with their single serve beverage cups, which include a line of pareve hot chocolate, chai tea, flavored cappuccino and hot apple cider.
“They are designed to fit into your Keurig but are pareve so that you don’t have to worry about putting dairy items into a pareve machine,” explained Natan Teren, president of Corim Industries, which also has a full line of cholov yisroel products.
Schmerling Chocolate won the Best New Candy award for their Sugarless Rosemarie Pareve and Milk Chocolates.
“If you do a blind taste test against the original Rosemarie you will have a hard time telling them apart,” said Mendy Schmerling, who explained that using maltitol instead of sugar yields an all natural, chemical free product with superior taste.
Other best in show winners included Goldbaum’s Gluten Free Flatbreads, made from chic pea flour, Australian made Sippets Soup Croutons, Oxygen Pomegranate and Teriyaki Sauce, a wine bottle shaped hagada and KJ Poultry’s Breaded Chicken Fries.
Prominently featured at the show was an oversized chicken nugget, created by Empire Kosher Poultry in honor of their 75th anniversary. Empire is in the process of submitting the paperwork to the Guinness Book of World Records so that the 39 inch long chicken nugget can be certified as the world’s largest chicken nugget.
“The previous record is 32 pounds and this one is 51 pounds,” said Jillian Bozeman of Empire.
The chicken nugget, affectionately nicknamed “Lola” by one Empire employee contains 66 percent chicken and has two and a half pounds of breading.
“She is frozen solid,” said Bozeman. “We are putting her back into the freezer tonight and will bring her back out tomorrow. Thursday she is going back to Empire we are going to cook her and eat her.”
Both Mehadrin and Norman’s had full lines of cholov yisroel Greek yogurt, with Norman’s debuting a 100 calorie light Greek yogurt and Yogurt Poppers, which pair yogurt with crunchy toppings including Fruity Crunch, Choco Granola and Cookie Crumbs.
“With yogurt like this there is no excuse not to eat cholov yisroel,” remarked one observer.
Exhibitors fielded a wide range of gluten free items in response to current trends and while there was no shortage of sweets and candies at Kosher Fest, Setton Farms offered an array of healthy crunchy treats, including dried beet chips, vegetable chips, okra and string beans.
“We are definitely noticing the trends, the obvious ones being gluten free, health and fresh new tastes,” observed Estee Kafra, of the KosherScoop.com, whose new cookbook, Cooking Inspired, will be hitting store shelves next week. “We also see an improvement in the quality and variety of products at Kosher Fest from year to year as consumers become more knowledgeable and have higher demands for quality products.”
It is that ability to adapt that keeps some companies flourishing year after year.
“Every day is a new adventure,” said Esther Friedman of Reisman’s which has been producing bakery items for 52 years. “It isn’t just keeping up with the times, it is staying ahead of the times that is what really has to be done, although there are classic items that are tried and true and people never get tired of those.”
Jack’s Gourmet Sausages, which has already taken home best in show honors for two consecutive years, was celebrating its third anniversary at Kosher Fest, with cookbook author Susie Fishbein doing hourly cooking demonstrations.
“All our products are made exclusively of 100 percent meat and fresh spices,” said co-owner Jack Silberstein. “People have really been responding to our product line which includes authentic Italian sausages, frozen sausage patties, old world cold cuts including corned beef pastrami and Italian salami. Our Facon has become our best selling product ever.”
In a unique partnership between the Amish and Brooklyn’s chasidic community, Rachel Wisenfeld of Wise Organic Pastures had a booth stocked with her free range, organically fed, hormone free organic chicken, hailing from Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
“We were the first ones to ever produce an organic, free range chicken,” said Mrs. Wisenfeld who founded the company in 1992 in order to provide her own family with humanely raised, high quality poultry.
“Once you taste my chickens you will never go back,” declared Mrs. Wisenfeld.
There were wines and spirits aplenty at Kosher Fest with Israeli winemaker Hevron Heights Wineries offering a water cooler that dispensed wine. Koval distillery of Chicago had an impressive collection of spirits including an organic millet whiskey. A line of flavored vodkas from South Carolina based Local Choice included not only intriguing flavors such as pepper tequila, strawberry kiwi and espresso but a unique opportunity to combine drinking with tzedaka.
“We are called Local Choice because we donate two dollars per bottle sold to the local community where it is purchased,” said John Lahey, Local Choice’s director of outreach and philanthropy.
Alexander Rappaport of Masbia reached out to 36 companies who have partnered with the local soup kitchen, naming them to his “Honor Roll for Brands with Soul.”
“We are looking to create a brand of our own, companies who have joined with Masbia and we are giving them placards to display that say, ‘This company cares about the needy.'”
Rappaport noted that donating items to charities such as Masbia can offer a tremendous payback.
“Companies who donate to charity get good press,” said Rappaport. “We are asking for charity but we are giving it a bit of a corporate twist, by getting their brands in the news.”
Also expressing gratitude to exhibitors was KosherTroops.com, which sends packages to Jewish troops stationed abroad.
“We wanted to thank many of our generous donors who were all here together at Kosher Fest so we brought representatives from the army and the air force in order to show our appreciation for all that so many of these companies do to help support our troops,” said Sara Fuerst of KosherTroops.com.
Many other businesses that are tangentially involved in the kosher food market were present at the show, which also provided a great opportunity for networking.
Kosher Fest will be continuing today at the Meadowlands Exposition Center from 10 AM to 4 PM. All food that is left at the end of the show will be distributed to City Harvest and Met Council on Jewish Poverty’s community food programs.
Photos Credit: Stefano Giovannini/VINnews.com
Photos below credit: Meir Tess