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Passover 2019 Recap

By Arlene Mathes-Scharf Copyright© 2019


On Passover people are looking for something to eat. It is also the most important time for the kosher-food industry and the kashrus agencies. From KosherToday: "As many as 80% of American Jews participate in at least one Seder, according to Jewish population studies, contributing to a dynamic Passover market, which represents nearly 40% of year-round kosher food sales.”

Kashrut.com is a year-round Kosher food information website. As part of the service, Kazshrut.com has a Passover section that lists or links to Kosher information from around the world. Kashrut.com was established in May 1996 to provide information on kosher to consumer and commercial readers.

For Passover 2019, Kashrut.com had a banner season. From March 6 - April 29, 2019 Kashrut.com had approximately 180,000 page downloads. Kashrut.com had over 101,000 Visits. The Passover index page itself had over 20,000 visitors. The website transferred 228.987GB gigabytes of information.

For the Passover 2019 season, trends that we saw in previous years have continued. They include difficulty to obtain Healthy Eating products, Passover certified cholov stam dairy shortages. Lack of chalav stam plain yogurt in some regions, large information booklets that people do not read and a basic lack of understanding by consumers of Passover food restrictions. In addition there are an increasing number of Passover foods containing kitniot available in general supermarkets particularly on places without large Sephardi populations.

Healthy Eating: One of the biggest trends in the food industry today is "free-from". Theoretically, many products produced for the "healthy, natural" market should be easy to make available for Passover since they are minimally processed, gluten-free, vegan, soy-free and corn-free. These products should be fairly simple to get Passover certified. In practice, this information is not available. Consumers who contacted kashrus agencies about many of these products were told that the agency had no information about them.
Many kosher consumers are trying to eat healthier. Some Companies have started to reach out to the "healthy" Passover market that consumers are seeking with Passover quinoa, coconut flour and almond flour. Many of these products were not available outside the major Jewish markets. There was also a lot of confusion about the Passover status of a number of ingredients including quinoa, coconut flour, avocado oil. I got quite a few questions on the following products:

In most cases, I found that most kashrus agencies do not say that a product is usable for Passover unless it is certified as such. To help the consumer, the OU has looked at the usability of soy, rice milks and baby formula for Passover, because of the great demand and listed this information elsewhere on their Passover website. The OU checked into some other products that had a large number of consumer questions. The Chicago Rabbinical Council has a search-able database https://askcrc.org/ that included Passover.

Both the manufacturers and the kashrus agencies are failing to address the healthy-food-for-Passover market, which is surprising, since many of these manufacturers are already careful with their processing or are aiming for the "free-from" allergen market, making them ideal for the gluten-free (non-gebruckts), soy-free and corn-free market of Pesach.

We should re-educate consumers and companies that kosher for Passover products require "traceability", are corn-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. Passover certification should be a desirable certification, Perhaps kashrus agencies could provide a designation or list of products produced year-round that are inherently kosher for Passover; such as is done now for Maxwell House coffee, Bigelow tea, Lipton tea or RealLemon Lemon Juice.

Passover Products Containing Kitniot: There was a proliferation of Passover certified products containing kitniot. This had a number of causes. Mainstream American kosher agencies are now certifying them. There is a growth of American Sephardic communities. Availability of products from Israel, since the majority of Israelis are Sephardic. In addtion, the Conservative Movement is allowing their members to eat kitniot. This is creating a challenge for Ashkenazi consumers who do not eat kitniot, since the label of each product needs to be checked carefully.

Shortage of chalov stam dairy products in New England and elsewhere:
Many of the usual chalav stam dairy products certified for Passover did not arrive in the Boston area. The products were listed as available certified in the OU Passover Guide, but did not show up or were delivered only once to the local supermarkets. So if you were not in the supermarket the "right day", the products were unavailable.

Large documents from the kashrus agencies that people do not read: The other thing that I noticed from the questions that I got is that the Kashrus agencies are producing large on-line documents that many people do not read or use. The kashrus agencies feel that this is the time that they get people's attention, so they produce large documents with many articles, not necessarily about Passover and which are money maker for the agencies because they contain ads. These documents are very difficult for users to navigate and find information.
A positive development: The Chicago Rabbinical Council Askcrc.org website is a useful resource for kashrus and Passover kashrus questions.

On Passover people are looking for something to eat. It is also the most important time for the kosher-food industry and the kashrus agencies. From KosherToday: "As many as 80% of American Jews participate in at least one Seder, according to Jewish population studies, contributing to a dynamic Passover market, which represents nearly 40% of year-round kosher food sales. Retailers in Brooklyn, Monsey and Lakewood said that a growing community was simply buying more, an indication that demographics are playing a major role in the soaring kosher food market."
There is a lot that has been done, but a lot more that can be done to ensure a supply of healthy foods for use on this holiday.


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Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf  
Food Scientist - Kosher Food Specialist
 
Scharf Associates
P.O. Box 50
Sharon, MA 02067