[When I first came to the American shores in 1962 (from Uruguay, South America), there were only a couple of kosher food manufacturers available in Richmond, VA - where my parents settled at the time. As for wine, the only real kosher options were extra sweet and sweeter yet... 48 years later, the choice of kosher certified foods in supermarkets has grown exponentially and there is little that is not available. Kosher wines are manufactured around the globe and win international awards! What caused this phenomenal revolution, how did kosher go mainstream? To understand how it all happened I sat down, yesterday, with Menachem Lubinsky, President and CEO of Lubicom. A summary of our conversation follows.]
The major factors contributing to the growth of the kosher industry are:
- Natural growth
- Dramatic improvements in packaging
- Accessibility in supermarkets
- Opportunities beyond traditional markets
The kosher consumer numbers have almost doubled in the last 20 years, with those under age 45 comprising over half of the total. More affluent neighborhoods convinced manufacturers that no segment of the market should be closed to them.
New advances in food production vastly improved the quality of kosher products. Packaging became more attractive and eye catching (as opposed to the old cellophane wrappers), an important ingredient in marketing and getting shelf space.
By expanding the kosher sections a new demographic of customers, with larger families, comes in and spends far more than the earlier smaller families. Certainly supermarkets pushed out smaller grocery stores – yet those who were willing to adapt to the new times and became more specialized in their offerings thrived. As a result, a lot of independents are opening today with choices not available in the larger stores, thereby expanding variety.
Muslims make up a large percentage of kosher consumers because of their concerns over pork. In the bigger cities, where such are available, they are exhorted to use strictly halal stores and yet, they still come to kosher establishments. In smaller cities you can find them in the kosher isles of supermarkets. [Even at last week's Kosherfest, there were Muslims. CS.]
Kosher products are slowly becoming mainstream, Middle Eastern treats like hummus are now commonplace throughout America. Bagels are not only available throughout most of the Western world and parts of Asia, but the word itself is now part of normal everyday parlance, whether here, most of Europe or even Japan. Eating kosher is no longer just a “Jewish thing,” it’s trendy!
And then, of course, there is the social media. A technology that is revolutionizing the flow of information at incredible speeds. Mr. Lubinsky witnessed its tremendous power at Pomegranate recently as he saw a lady tweeting the specials… Within a half hour, ten of her friends had joined her in shopping!
Yes, kosher has come an incredibly long way whether in number of items, the quality of restaurants and wines available. In 2008 kosher represented a $200 billion market as opposed to $150 billion in 2003. Many non Jews seek out kosher because they believe it to be safer, better, healthier.
[Prior and during his time at Lubicom, Mr. Lubinsky worked and continues to work extensively with both profit and non-profits. He has an M.B.A. in Marketing and Advertising from the Bernard Baruch College at City University of New York. He has received many prestigious awards and been honored by major organizations for his work and advocacy. As a major player in the field, he is the universally acknowledged expert on the matter of kosher marketing, its history and its growth.]