NEW YORK -- Retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers are putting a modern spin on the traditional Passover celebration by adding elements of convenience to their product selections this year.
ShopRite, supplied by Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., is offering consumers Passover Seder-to-Go meals, a group of frozen entrees and side dishes that serve up to approximately 12 people. Food item choices include brisket of beef, stuffed derma, gefilte fish and potato kugel, among others.
"We find that more and more people are returning to their roots and are interested in having a traditional seder or are interested in observing the holiday, but they don't necessarily know how to do it," said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, executive rabbinic coordinator for the Orthodox Union, N.Y., which certifies plants in all 50 states and in 68 countries.
"Even if they know how to do it, they may not have the time to get it done right. I think the supermarkets and the big companies around the country are recognizing that trend, and are taking advantage of that," he said.
Yakov Yarmove, corporate kosher category manager for Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons, told SN every Albertsons store is featuring a Passover display because between 92% and 96% of all Jewish people observe Passover to some degree. Displays are more subtle in areas with a small Jewish clientele, but in areas with a larger demographic base, like Chicago, Los Angeles, Florida and New Jersey, "we really put in powerful and potent displays, usually in the front of the store," he said.
The front-and-center placement not only makes a strong statement of retailer support to kosher consumers, it helps maximize sales in a holiday-sensitive, time-bound category. Kosher food has also taken on a more secular image with a new generation of modern products that appeal to a much wider audience.
Yarmove's stores are carrying the traditional items, such as matzohs, but he said he also has seen many new products developed over the past several years, from wasabi sauces to a beer made from molasses distributed by a brewery in upstate New York, which he was unable to get due to an extremely limited supply.
"When I was growing up, it was matzoh, poultry, a little bit of produce and macaroons," Yarmove said. "Now, thanks to modern food technology, there are items out there like brisket sauces, flavored apple sauces, juice box drinks, candies [and] condiments. Mustard is not permitted for Passover, but several companies have figured out a way to mimic a mustard for Passover.
"I credit the kosher vendor community for not only coming out with these great items, but also doing a great job with the packaging. They really look exciting, and they add real color and flavor to our Passover stuff and the customers are responding fantastically," he said.
D'Agostino Supermarkets, Larchmont, N.Y., is pushing conveniently packaged Passover items in a four-page spread in the current in-store circular. Featured Center Store products include items like Manischewitz Macaroons in a resealable 10-ounce canister for $3.19, and Streit's Passover Matzohs in an economy-sized, 5-pound package selling for $10. "There are a lot more convenience foods prepared," Elefant of the OU said, adding he has even seen the entire seder plate, with all six significant Passover foods already on it, available right out of a carton.
"What we're finding is that even supermarkets that aren't necessarily [located] in heavily kosher markets are getting very interested in kosher," Elefant said. "These are not chains that have been known to focus on the kosher consumer, but realize the kosher consumer is a very valuable customer."