Secaucus, NJ - Kosher Products Continue To Shine At Kosherfest
Secaucus, NJ - With over 400 booths featuring products from around the globe, cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings, exhibits, samples and much more, Kosherfest continues to be a huge draw, both for those in the kosher food business as well as those in related industries. Event organizers estimated a turnout of 6,000 visitors at the two day trade show, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Meadowlands Exhibition Center in Secaucus.
Kosherfest 2015 was a mosaic of products that ran the gamut, with a mix of major players in the kosher market and newcomers to the scene, and items that ranged from the traditional to the contemporary. From pink Himalayan sea salt to gefilte fish, from chocolate leather to sour pickles, from date vodka to cholov yisroel energy drinks, there was something for everyone at the annual event.
While for so many attendees Kosherfest is all about tasting, the primary emphasis is on kashrus. Rabbi Aaron Mendelson who carries the title of official show rabbi said that over the years it became evident that vigilant supervision was needed, as exhibitors of a completely kosher product might bring along an accompanying item that could prove to be problematic.
Watch below exclusive video interviews with exhibitors at the event.
“One year we had someone who brought along cold cuts to go with his product,” Rabbi Mendelson told VIN News. “It was Boar’s Head. Needless to say, he was asked to leave.”
Since that time, kashrus has become priority number one at the show and Rabbi Mendelson noted that he takes his responsibilities extremely seriously. This year, one exhibitor was asked to leave the show on Tuesday morning when his kashrus certificate turned out to be unreliable.
“It had a signature dated two weeks ago from a rabbi who died six years ago,” explained Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Orthodox Union, who noted that there is no wiggle room when it comes to kashrus at Kosherfest, which is under the strict supervision of the AKO.
Rabbi Elefant also stressed the importance of verifying the kashrus status of any item, be it at a store, in a restaurant, at a simcha or at Kosherfest. Numerous kashrus agencies had booths at the show including the OU, CRC, COR, Kof-K, OK, Star K, Canada’s Kosher Certifier, KLBD London Beis Din, Shatz Kosher Services and the Kashrut Authority of Australia and New Zealand.
Jack’s Gourmet, a four time winner in the show’s new product competition in the meat category, walked away with the best in show award for their BBQ Pulled Beef Brisket, a slow cooked meat which is shredded, mixed with homemade barbeque sauce and is both gluten and nitrite free.
“We set out to make great products, products that have very high quality, products that we feel are lacking in the market or don’t exist,” said owner Jack Silberstein. “We use nice packaging, have a description of the product on every package, which also has cooking instructions and recipe tips.”
One of the most original products at this year’s show was Noah’s Kosher Kitchen’s Kosher White Chicken, shelf stable, canned white chicken available in a variety of sizes. It took David Levine of Santa Cruz, California, 15 years to develop the product which looks and smells like canned tuna. The response to the product was overwhelmingly positive according to Levine.
“On the consumer level, the retail level, the distributing level and the catering level, everybody thought that this was fantastic idea,” said Levine. “They all asked me how come they had never seen anything like this before. I guess I just came up with something creative.”
Levine noted that aside from white meat chicken, there are only two other items in his product.
“Just the salt that it took to make the chicken breast kosher and a little bit of water,” said Levine, who added that the product is also acceptable for Pesach.
Levine and his wife Valmarie named the product for their only son, Noah, who they had planned to bring to Kosherfest. Noah, who was dressed in a company shirt and apron, was refused entrance to the show which does not admit entrance to children under 18.
“We home school and we felt like coming to a trade show could be part of his education,” explained Mrs. Levine. “He was excited and we had hoped to share his love and educate him but no children are allowed because of insurance.”
Originality also abounded at CocoArt, a Monroe based company that makes premium chocolates in flavors including citron, mango madness and passion fruit squirt and took home the prize for best gourmet sweets.
“We were looking for a product that the kosher world does not have and we found that there is no kosher chocolate made with fresh milk,” explained Sara Chana Schwartz.
CocoArt prides itself on using high quality ingredients including Madagascar vanilla, high quality grade lavender and fresh raspberries. In addition to their full line of milk and white chocolates, CocoArt also makes ArtMelts in seven flavors.
“ArtMelts are chocolates that you don’t chew,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “You put them on your tongue and they melt at body temperature.”
Not available in retail stores, CocoArt ships all of its products using overnight FedEx delivery, adding ice packs to the package during the warmer months to keep the chocolate from melting. The company’s products retail at $6 to $8 each, although Mrs. Schwartz noted that they are significantly larger than standard sized chocolates.
“This is for the high end luxury customer that is looking for something exotic,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “Just like wine give you more nuances and more flavors the more expensive it is, our chocolate can be graded the same way.”
Another showstopper was composed of the most humble of snacks, pretzels, with the Queens based A Pretty Pretzel lining the back of their booth with a display over 1,300 rainbow hued pretzels.
“Most pretzels you find out there today are coated in either white or dark chocolate and then use colored coatings on top,” said pretzelist Ari Ginian. “Our pretzels are actually coated in the color of the topping. Our colors are much more vivid and we can be a lot more creative and can offer a lot more customization, so we can detail and tailor our pretzels both on a retail and a wholesale level.”
Available in twists, rods and mini rods, A Pretty Pretzel uses white, dark, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple chocolate and accents their creations with variety of items including colored sanding sugars, pearls, non pariels and assorted chips. Pretzel toppers in a variety of designs including tzitzis, flowers, music notes, flowers, mustaches, bows and teddy bears add a finishing touch to the “pretzel art.”
A line of Israeli craft beers drew a fair amount of interest from show goers. Malka beers come from a kibbutz in the Galil and are the only Israeli craft beers distributed in America. Beer ambassador Austin Clar described the three brews, with the Belgian-style blond ale having notes of orange and coriander, the more traditionally-English pale ale tasting of toffee and fruit and the roasted dried stout featuring elements of espresso and dark chocolate.
Cheese was another popular item and joining the many brands that are typically found in kosher stores was Milano’s Cheese, which produces a cholov yisroel line under the name Yosef’s and a second kosher line supervised by the Orthodox Union called Isaac’s.
“We only do Parmesan and Romano and Asiago,” said Anothony Caliendo. “It is good stuff, hard cheeses and we just recently decided to go kosher. We have been family owned for over 30 years. We are the best in the Italian cheese business and we happen to be kosher now as well, something that we are very excited about.”
Several booths went the extra mile in an effort to draw visitors.
Donna Domiano of Fabbri USA was dressed in a black dress covered with red cherries and was wearing a cherry necklace and cherry earrings to draw attention to the company’s Amarena cherries. The wild cherries, which are inedible in their natural state, are candied in syrup, and according to Domiano are equally delicious eaten plain, used with duck or served on a cheese platter.
This was the first trip to Kosherfest for Fabbri, which is a 110 year old company based in Bologna, Italy.
“We sell a line of kosher products for baking, pastry making, beverages, desserts, ice cream and gelato,” said Damiano. “We are really excited to be here and have had a lot of interest from the kosher market.”
What is thought to be the original truck used to deliver Klein’s Ice Cream when the company was founded 60 years ago was the centerpiece of the Klein’s booth. Ari Klein said that the odometer of the 1954 red truck which sported whitewall tires, reads just 35,000 miles and that the truck was purchased from a collector in Michigan.
“I can’t know for sure that it is the original but I am pretty sure it is,” said Klein. “The moment I saw the picture I got chills. I flew out to Michigan and we put it on a flatbed truck to bring it back here.”
The truck, which is housed in the Klein’s Ice Cream House in Borough Park, is still operational and was driven to Kosherfest. Klein said that the truck received many admiring glances on its way out to Secaucus.
“People kept taking pictures of it,” said Klein. “We hope to take it to different Jewish communities. It’s not just a truck. It is a piece of history.”
A glass blower brought in by event producer Gershy Moskowitz to the Mesamchei Lev booth to attract traffic produced the desired results, as people stopped to admire the glass chai necklaces, figurines and even mezuza cases created on the spot, and also learned about Mesamchei Lev.
“There is food all over here and yet there are thousands of people that Mesamchei Lev is supporting and feeding who don’t have access to any kind of food at all,” said Hilly Hill, chief marketing officer at Mesamchei Lev. “There are corporations here who are all about food and we give food so we think that this is a great shidduch and a perfect opportunity for us to get corporate sponsors.”
Although many at the show sampled decadent pastries, succulent meats and endless bottles of wine, interest in health food continues to grow.
Esperanza Urbieta of Productos Naturalos Kykage came from Guadalajara, Mexico, with a line of products that included chia flour, chia oil and chia seeds.
“We have products for people 40 years and older to feel better and get more energy,” said Ms. Urbieta. “We have certification and want to expose our products and get into the kosher market.”
Ruban Foods of Northbrook Illinois brought a display of raw honey, including acacia, sunflower, buckwheat and linden honeys.
“If you keep honey under 42 degrees Celsius it retains 100 percent of its healthy properties,” explained Naum Bestaly. “Our honey is so thick because it is natural. Everyone is used to liquid honey but when you heat it you destroy everything.”
Can a spread made with yellow peas really work as a peanut butter substitute? Sam Muller of Sneaky Chef is betting that it can.
“It is really, really good,” said Muller. “It is made out of golden peas, and has the same nutrition and protein levels of regular peanut butter and less sugar. Now that a lot of schools have gone to nut free facilities, children can still take this to school.”
Even toothpaste has gone healthy and kosher, with the black seed oil based SprinJene toothpaste hoping to woo kosher consumers.
“Our black seed oil comes straight from Israel,” said CEO Sayed Ibrahim. “We bring science and nature together. Instead of using harsh chemicals, polymers and synthetic materials we use natural black seed oil as a delivery vehicle for zinc which is anti-virus and anti-bacterial.”
De La Rosa Food Products, which produces items including olive oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, balsamic and wine vinegars and organic wine and grape juice, hopes to imbue foods with a little something extra.
“We we have a mission to put heavenly sparks back into food,” said Yehudis Girshberg of De La Rosa. “The problem in today’s world is that everything has become very plastic and devoid of Hashem’s influence. Some of the big food companies have done everything possible to make everything artificial and it is very important that we all understand that food is like medicine. It can help you or it can hurt you and you have to eat healthy.”
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