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New additions crowd $305B kosher market at Kosherfest 



Gorging on meatballs, cocktail hot dogs, salami, veggie treats, and much much more at Kosherfest 2013

Harlan Levy / Journal Inquirer

Noshing through Kosherfest

The eighth and final day of Hanukkah — and eight days of presents — has ended. But while Jewish shoppers have shot their holiday wad in the ongoing retail extravaganza, they won’t stop participating in another retail explosion: kosher foods.


In fact, more and more non-Jews are getting in on the kosher food act. And kosher product producers are responding with a flood of new items to add to the good old traditional ones (like bagels, knishes, blintzes, and matzah ball soup).

I may have seen everything new and old — and tasted quite a few — at the 25th annual Kosherfest in October, a giant two-day trade show at the huge Meadowlands Expo Center in northern New Jersey.

“What a spread!” a grandma could exclaim on surveying the thousands of products in that cavernous space — including pizza cones (“wrapped in genius”), pizza bagels, gelato, Israeli and Australian wines, Local Choice Espresso Vodka, Lime Tequila, and Black Cherry Bourbon), lots of matzah, pasta, meat and poultry sauces, salad dressings, hot chocolate, cakes, cupcakes (Baked By Melissa, the best), really rich pastries and cookies, gluten-free corn flakes, quinoa cereal, quinoa rice cakes, quinoa chips, tortillas, unfiltered real ginger ale, chicken fries, chicken kebabs, zero-calorie Asian noodles, meatballs, fish balls, salami, bologna, cocktail hot dogs, veggie hot dogs, veggie burgers, veggie fish, Italian turkey sausage, olive oils, vinegars, popcorn, and broccoli and spinach pancakes. There’s more, but enough is enough.

As Manischewitz Assistant Brand Manager Avital Pessar put it, many of these tasty treats are “like something my grandma would make.” That includes wine-maker Manischewitz’s new pistachio orange macaroons, farfel (matzah bits)-based granola, new chicken broth, and popcorn.

By the way, it’s kosher if it complies with ancient Jewish dietary rules. It’s kosher if it’s meat from cattle, sheep, and goats, fish with fins and scales, and fruits and vegetables. Not kosher are animals that don’t chew their cud or don’t have cloven hooves — pigs, camels, rock badgers, and rabbits (I’m not kidding) — and lobsters, oysters, clams, crabs, and shrimp. Also, meat and dairy products can’t be made or eaten together.

To illustrate market growth, when Menachem Lubinsky started Kosherfest in 1988 it featured 30,000 products from 69 companies and 700 visitors. This year 275 companies exhibited 175,000 products. More than 6,500 industry professionals attended, with 28 percent more buyers than in 2012, including high-volume kosher buyers from Whole Foods, Walmart, and Walgreens. Exhibitors came from as far away as Argentina, London, Israel, and Mexico City and from many states beyond the Northeast, including Texas, California, and Florida.

And who’s buying is a surprise. “Almost two thirds of kosher consumers are not Jewish, including other religious groups such as Muslims (16 percent), and a growing number of Americans who believe kosher is better and healthier,” Lubinsky said.

Here are data compiled this year by Lubicom Marketing Consulting:

• Annual growth from 2008: 10 percent.

• 12,250,000 kosher consumers in the U.S.

• 21 percent of Americans regularly or occasionally buy kosher, 55 percent of those for health and safety, 38 percent because they’re vegetarians.

• 3.5 million Muslims and members of other religions eat kosher products.

• Value of U.S. kosher goods: $305 billion.

• Number of kosher-products: 190,000.

• Kosher products in U.S. supermarkets: 19,000 on average.

“The U.S. is a developing market for kosher wines. You see it growing every year,” said Amotz Teperbeg, export manager and sixth-generation partner in Israel’s Teperberg Winery, selling 6 million cases a year. “Today almost 60 percent of Israeli wines go to the U.S., their biggest market.”

“I’ve been asked over and over again to do a kosher gelato,” said Giuliana Mirabella, owner of a New Haven gelato company, who launched her first kosher gelato at Kosherfest. “We’re going to make it in 40 flavors — mocha, pistachio, caramel, passion fruit, chocolate, endless flavors, strawberry, cinnamon bun, maple syrup, mango, endless flavors.”

Kosher Passion Fruit was a winner. Mirabella’s non-kosher gelato is already in major Connecticut supermarkets.

Even Streit’s Matzo Co., opened in 1925, the oldest matzo (or matzah) bakery in the U.S., has come out with new products. It’s now offering quinoa and gluten-free matzah balls to go along with other items and 30,000 pounds of matzah it sells daily.

“The kosher market is also growing in Mexico,” said Jacopo Sacao of Mexico City’s Sinai Deli and Bakery, who exhibited his breads. “In Mexico we have 60,000 Jewish people, and maybe 20,000 are kosher. A lot of people are getting kosher in Mexico City. They’re coming back to their religion.”

Among the new companies at Kosherfest was Cuppa J, with gluten-free, lactose-free (and delicious) Double Dark, Maryam Spice, and Mystic Mint hot chocolate.

“I always liked hot chocolate,” said Cuppa J founder Jacob Hill. “My nieces and nephews are lactose-intolerant, as I was as a little kid, so I made this, since they never had hot chocolate before.”

Another intriguing new product was California-based Miracle Noodle’s Asian noodles — made from plant root fiber (3 percent) and water (97 percent).

“We chop the root of a plant into fine pieces and mill it into a flour,” co-owner Jill Goldstein explained. “Then it’s boiled at a high temperature and chilled, and we cut it into the different-shaped noodles.” They’re gluten-free, soy-free, wheat-free, have no calories, and they were really good, good news for a pasta lover … and diabetics.

One new product I took a shine to was reusable dreidel (the four-sided top)–shaped plastic ice cube containers. I took home a dozen, put them in the freezer, and popped them in family members’ cold drinks. Were they impressed? Not really.

But the chocolates? Oy!


Sam Stovall is chief equity strategist at S & P Capital IQ as well as the author of The Seven Rules of Wall Street and the column Stovall's Sector Watch, a page on


Harlan Levy: What do you take from the job numbers 203,000 new jobs in November after 200,000 in October?

Sam Stovall: The numbers were good, but based on the stock market’s reaction to these numbers, they weren’t good enough.

As a result of the stronger than expected Automatic Data Processing private-sector jobs report on Dec. 4 and the jobless claims on Dec. 5, traders were probably expecting a much stronger November payrolls report than what was received. The 203,000 new jobs combined with the unemployment rate decline from 7.3 to 7 percent reinforced our belief that we should see a slowly improving economy in 2014.

Unlike the third-quarter Gross Domestic Product report from Dec. 15, 3.6 percent growth, which showed strength as a result of inventory building, we believe that there is very little to be disappointed by in this most recent jobs report.

What’s more we saw a pickup in hourly earnings as well as the work week, but, more importantly, saw an uptick in the participation rate to 63 percent from the 35-year low at 62.8 percent.

Q: Do you see similar jobs numbers next year?

A: S&P Economics forecasts the unemployment rate to average 6.9 percent in 2014 versus its 2013 estimate of 7.5 percent. This report was published prior to Friday's employment data, so I'm unable to say how Friday's report will affect the forecast next month.

Q: What do you see Gross Domestic Product doing next year?

A: Our estimate is for GDP to gain 2.6 percent in 2014 and for Real GDP to be up 2.6 percent. The most recent GDP report would imply that 2014 could still be a bit of a challenging year for the U.S. economy, as consumption declined while inventories rose. As a result we will need to see what happens not only in the final revision for the third quarter GDP report but also for what happened in the fourth quarter to decide whether the economy simply hit a short-term soft patch or is indeed experiencing an elevated trajectory.

Q: Will inflation stay around 2 percent?

A: Our expectation is that the Consumer Price Index will increase by less than 2 percent and likely be up no more than 1.6 percent by the same time in 2014.

Despite the liquidity being pumped into the economy by the Federal Reserve, we don’t see hyper-inflation becoming a foregone conclusion. An analogy could be if Hostess doubled its output of Twinkies yet nobody ate them, would we still gain weight? Despite this increased availability of capital, because loan growth remains subdued and the velocity of money also remains low we don't see inflation as a near-term threat.

Q: So do you think the Fed's tapering of its monthly purchases of $85 billion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities will begin in December?

A: I will give S&P Economics the benefit of the doubt and reiterate that a December start date is still a very real possibility, because they were correct in projecting that the Fed would not start its tapering activities in September, even though most on Wall Street assumed they would.

The belief is that the economy is showing sufficient signs of being able to stand on its own two feet and that the tapering not the complete elimination -- of bond purchases could still begin this month.

The consensus of economists, according to Bloomberg is that a most likely start date is March.

Q: Will business investment increase?

A: Yes. We think that capital spending will improve in 2014. We project a 7.4 percent increase in 2014, compared with the estimated growth of 2.6 percent for 2013. Along with that we see residential construction or housing rising 14.9 percent in 2014 after a 14 percent increase in 2013.

Our belief is that the improvement in the housing market will continue to support economic growth and could continue to contribute to the decline in the jobless rate. as it is estimated that two to three new jobs are created for each new home built.

In addition, we expect auto sales to rise by 16 million units in 2014, versus the estimated advance of 15.5 million this year, as the average age for an auto remains close to a record high of 11 years.

Q. What about stocks and the S&P 500?

A: History would indicate but not guarantee that the market would continue to advance in December despite being up more than 15 percent year-to-date through November. Since World War II whenever the S&P 500 gains 145 percent or more year-to-date through November the average monthly price gain for December was 2.1 percent, slightly better than the average of all Decembers of 1.8 percent.

In addition, the batting average, or frequency with which the S&P rose in December, remained above e 70 percent. So, chances are investors will let their winners ride rather than take the money and run before the end of the year.

Q: What does history say if the whole year is up strongly?

A: Again, history is a guide, not gospel, and is encouraging from this perspective as well. Historically, good years have followed great years. In the 21 times since World War II that the S&P 500 rose by 20 percent or more in one year, it gained an average of 10 percent in the following year, compared with an average price gain of 8.7 percent for all years since 1945. In addition, these good years recorded a positive performance 78 percent of the time, versus a 71 percent frequency of advance for all years.

Q What headwinds do you fear?

A: There are many stones in today's wall of worry, including a peaking of S&P 500 earnings per share and profit margins, continued dysfunction in Washington, and the end of QE3, the Fed’s monthly buying program. These three concerns have been with investors for quite a long time, and, as a result, I believe are largely factored into share prices. I like to say that a boxer is rarely felled by the punch he expects. So if the S&P 500 were to slip into a decline of 10 percent or more I believe it would be from less widely anticipated events, such as a growing concern for European deflation, increased military tensions in the waters off China, terrorist acts or natural disasters.

I'm not trying to minimize the possibility of a correction in the markets. Indeed, we are overdue for one. On average, the S&P has experienced declines of 10 percent or more every 18 months. Twelve months is the median, whereas we have gone 26 months since the end of the 2011 correction. Even though one is due, we still don't know when it's going to arrive.

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