NEW YORK — It behooves retailers to cater to the distinct tastes of members of today's fragmented kosher market.
That message was conveyed here at last week's Cultural Food Expo by Menachem Lubinsky, president of Lubicom Marketing Consulting, during the session “State of the Kosher Industry: Traditional Kosher in Non-Traditional Places.”
“There is a very significant market segmentation, and only the savvy marketers understand this,” he said. “To lump them together is sometimes unfair and produces the wrong results.” Instead, grocers should consider the needs of three distinct groups, he advised.
“There are about 800,000 to 1 million core kosher consumers who buy kosher items 365 days a year,” Lubinsky said. “They're the most significant part of the equation; they buy more and they're more loyal.” The average consumer spends $6,500 to $7,000 a year on groceries, whereas an orthodox Jew with a large family spends from between $13,000 and $15,000, he noted. Younger members of the segment are digging deeper into their pockets for certain items like wine and sushi, he explained.
“It's a different mind-set — these consumers walk into the store and they want items like [kosher] teriyaki sauce; they're not necessarily interested in chopped liver,” said Lubinsky. “Second- and third-generation children are noticing sushi that is kosher and say, ‘Hey, why not?’ His parents are asking, ‘Why is he eating raw fish?’ — but to him this is a way of life.”
The second group consists of unaffiliated Jews who don't normally observe Jewish dietary laws.
“Many of these Jews have written kosher off, but they walk into the store, look at the section with suspicion and see the chopped liver and blintzes, and it's like grandma's house coming back,” said Lubinsky.
The third segment of kosher consumers, considered a crossover group, consists of Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists and vegetarians.
“Much has been made about this third group. People are asking me, ‘Do they really exist?’” said Lubinsky. “Yes, they are real. Are they as large and significant as some people think they are? Probably not.”
No matter what a consumer's reason might be for reaching for kosher, shoppers are being presented with more and more options, Lubinsky observed.
“I took a tour of a supermarket in 1988, and the manager proudly showed me their kosher selection, which was limited to borscht, grape juice, matzoh and gefilte fish,” he noted. “Today, Wal-Mart has 500 stores with kosher selections, and Costco is making a concerted effort to highlight kosher in some stores.” Marriott hotels have 30 kosher kitchens, and six or seven Major League Baseball stadiums have kosher stands, he added.
Cultural Food Expo New York is the new umbrella name for the co-located shows known as Kosherfest, All Asia Food, Expo Comida Latina and Organic Pavilion. Sponsored by Diversified Business Communications, last week's two-day show featured over 550 exhibitors representing 20 countries, including Israel, Mexico and Korea.
The range of product types represented suited the needs of Kings Super Markets.
“We're looking for ‘wow’ products,” Doreen Sigona, category manager for the 25-store upscale chain based in Parsippany, N.J., told SN. “We're here to see what the trends are and if there are products worth developing for private label. We're also focusing on [discovering] if there is something better out there than what we're making right now.”
Last year, Kings began sourcing store-brand babka from Lilly's, a kosher bakery in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Items including rugelach, linzer tortes and black-and-white cookies have since been added to its selection, which is direct-delivered to stores at least once a week.
Sigona's colleague Tom Frank, who is quality assurance manager at Kings, identified a potential stumbling block after inspecting products made in Mexico that were displayed at the expo.
“Some of these products would have to change their labeling” in order to be merchandised in the U.S., he said. “Their nutritional panel is in a different language.”