KosherFest 2021: go kosher in New Jersey after pandemic hiatus

NEW YORK – Kosherfest, the kosher food industry trade fair, has returned to its former home at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ, after being suspended last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Held in a large exhibition space just six miles from Manhattan’s Time Square, the two-day gathering brings together several major players in the kosher food industry, including food and beverage manufacturers of all sizes. and years in business, store owners, caterers, restaurant owners, kosher travel package providers, chefs, labeling, packaging and shipping companies, food writers, and bloggers, among others.

All attendees shared their interest in trying new and classic food and beverage offerings, made potentially profitable and profitable business connections, and racked up as many free samples as possible: food samples, pens, and tote bags.

Kosherfest 2021 offered a glimpse of what a major trade show could look like as the world slowly exits the pandemic’s restrictions. A food fair with groceries to samples should meet a high safety standard.

Signs at the entrance indicated “Highly Recommended Face Masks” regardless of vaccination status and also offered “sampling guidelines”, assuring attendees that “Kosherfest exhibitors are prioritizing health and safety by following these basic guidelines. sampling “, which include masks, gloves and tweezers.

The entrance to Kosherfest 2021. (Credit: HOWARD BLAS)

Despite the precautions in place, not everyone followed the guidelines. Once attendees went through particularly tight security this year, some attendees and exhibitors were not wearing masks or gloves. Few seemed to take into account the conventions of social distancing.

While more than 300 exhibitors lined the halls of the convention center, these numbers pale in comparison to pre-pandemic shows. “We’re missing 61 companies, including more than 30 from Israel,” said organizer Menachem Lubinsky, president and CEO of LUBICOM Marketing Consulting, founding editor of Kosher Today and a leading authority on the kosher food market.

But Lubinsky, a veteran of the kosher food industry, took an optimistic view and was not discouraged.

“There are a lot of new products here and a lot of business is being done. It was important for the show to continue because the industry continues to grow at such a phenomenal rate in the US We now have a whole network of independent kosher food stores and supermarkets, 20 to 50,000 square foot stores that used to be reserved for chains nationals. Now we have independent kosher supermarkets that are doing that. Demographics are driving the growth of the kosher food industry here. “

This was Lubinsky’s 32nd year organizing Kosherfest.

“When we started the program, a place like Lakewood, NJ, had 17,000 kosher consumers. Today it has 90,000. One dealer said he used to take one trip a week. Now, it makes almost two a day. So I feel good about the show, I feel like this will be just the prelude to a much bigger event next year and I hope Covid is further on the decline. And international travel will get better. “

Ben Aviva, CEO of Kiryat Malachi’s Churros Original was one of the lucky foreign companies to make it to Kosherfest.

“My father saw churros in a mall in Spain 15 years ago,” said Aviva, who noted that kosher churros are not yet sold in the United States. Aviva felt that interest in its fried dough product grew due to the pandemic: “People did not want to free themselves deeply at home. It’s too much of a headache. This takes five minutes from the freezer to the oven to eat. ”

KLBD’s Sharon Feldman Vazan (Kosher London Beth Din) said she had no trouble getting to the show, despite coming from Europe. She and her colleagues acted swiftly once travel restrictions were lifted on November 8 for fully vaccinated European travelers. Feldman Vazan reports feeling “very excited” to be at the show, which was “a better than expected event.”

Jennifer Kim, Director of Business Development for the Government of Israel, currently works in New York at the Israel Economic Mission to the USA as part of the Foreign Trade Administration of the Israeli Ministry of Economy, charged with promoting trade and investment between Israel and the US. Kim played an especially important role at this year’s fair, given the travel problems of many Israeli companies. Lubinsky reports that the Israel pavilion traditionally houses 25 stalls, but most were unable to attend. At this year’s fair, Kim responded to several inquiries from people interested in doing business with Israel.

For example, three Dutch businessmen approached Kim for help importing a variety of Israeli kosher products for their catering company. They were grateful and cautiously optimistic that Kim kept his promise to connect them with key Israeli companies.

As the name suggests, Kosherfest is equal parts kosher food trade fair and food and conviviality festival for anyone remotely connected to the kosher food industry. Spending several hours at Kosherfest walking the long corridors is exhausting and satisfying.

Brooklyn’s Flaum Appetizing offered slices of pizza, hummus and pita, cheese, and samples of minestrone and pumpkin soup to all who stopped by. Promised Land Drinks occupied booth 414, right next to Fins Import, offering samples of anchovy bondarilla with olives and cold-smoked anchovy fillets.

Yaakov Charlap, owner of Matzot Charlap of Bet Shemesh was handing out samples of matzah shmura. For those wondering why a matzah company would remind people about Passover with more than five months to go, he jokingly said: “Kosherfest was canceled last year; Pesach still came, and we are the best tasting matzah in Israel! “

    Matzot Charlap from Bet Shemesh at Kosherfest.  (credit: HOWARD BLAS) Matzot Charlap from Bet Shemesh at Kosherfest. (credit: HOWARD BLAS)

Tzipporah Rothkopf, who converted to Judaism in 1980 and operates Seoul House, a Korean cafe near her home in Jerusalem’s Old City, was handing out samples of kimchi and other Korean kosher products. A few stalls away, several Koreans offered flavors of K-BBQ sauce, authentic Korean BBQ sauce that “can be used in various dishes such as bulgogi, galbi or japchae.”

King Preferred’s Latonya King offered samples of dairy cakes and pareve made with their cake mixes (“my personal favorite is our fourth flavor: banana pudding cake”). It describes itself as the world’s first “black kosher certified bakery mix company” and prides itself on using an old family recipe.

    King Preferred booth at Kosherfest 2021 (credit: HOWARD BLAS) King Preferred booth at Kosherfest 2021 (credit: HOWARD BLAS)

David Guetta, a partner at California-based Mulami, was offering samples of artisanal sausages that included Milano salami, salt and pepper. He started the company five years ago using a method of fermentation and drying of salami used for more than 1,000 years. “Growing up, I went to Franc all the time. I loved salami and couldn’t find it. I became obsessed and tried to do it, ”reports Guetta.

    Mulami's booth at Kosherfest.  (credit: HOWARD BLAS) Mulami’s booth at Kosherfest. (credit: HOWARD BLAS)

There was also wine and liquor available to taste. Marushika Osman of KAS Spirits in Mahopac, New York, explains why she and her husband started KAS Krupnikas, a sweet alcoholic beverage distilled with local honey and a secret blend of spices. “I have lost my mind!” she joked before explaining that she encouraged her husband to turn his hobby of making alcohol using his Lithuanian family’s recipe into a business when he lost his job.

Non-food items were also on display: kitchen appliance labeling machines and companies offering business loans. Sherry Wynograd of Hillside, New York, was very excited as she walked past the Shabbulb booth, displaying a special bulb that can be adjusted for brightness on Shabbat. “It is the greatest thing that has ever existed. I have it for all my children! “

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