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Passover 2022: The Perfect Storm

By Arlene Mathes-Scharf Copyright© 2022

Passover is a holiday that is a major part of Jewish family life. People prepare for it weeks if not months before. Everything that people eat needs to be certified Kosher for Passover. Many families got together for the first time since Covid began. It is like preparing for Thanksgiving meals – except 3 meals a day for 8 days.

Preparing for Passover 2022 was challenging in many ways. A perfect storm of problems combined to make some products unavailable, others in short supply and others much more expensive.

Consolidation of the Kosher industry: Passover products are now made by only a few companies in a few plants per item. Any glitch can cause the absence of a product. Covid prevented the production of some items. Season Sardines, which in the past always had Passover certification, only had certification on some products. Manischewitz was acquired by Kenover Marketing, who owns Kedem, in 2019. Prior to this, Manischewtz had closed their American matzoh plant in 2017, so their matzoh is made for them in Israel. Streit’s has the only machine matzoh factory in the US. Because of the consolidation, fewer brands products have been produced. Due to Covid related supply chain issues there were some difficulties securing some raw materials for egg matza, so supplies were limited.

Supply chain issues, especially transportation issues and packaging shortages, affected the availability and supply of many products. Oil was one of them. There was the late delivery of Passover cottonseed oil and a shortage of olive oil spray. Even the change in certification of Pompeian Grape-seed Oil from the Star-K to OU caused a reduction in Passover oil, since the Star-K product was usable for Passover and the OU product was not. In England and other places where sunflower oil is used, supplies were disrupted by the war in Ukraine. There were also reports of shortages of margarine.>/p>

There were schmura matzoh shortages in some areas to do supply chain and transportation issues. About 20,000 pounds of shmura matzoh were stuck in Ukraine due to the war.

Lack of availability of other products: Products that had been available were not due to a variety of factors. Coconut sugar, which has a low glycemic index and is a staple for many diabetics was not available for Passover. A factory that had produced the product had been shut down. Other products were deemed not usable for Passover because of processing conditions or insect infestation. Coconut Secret was purchased by Nutriva, which discontinued the Coconut Secret sugar product. Nutriva also changed the certification of the Coconut Aminos product from Star-K to OU. The Star-K was allowing this product for Passover and the OU did not.

Other shortages:

Ketchup: Because of an ingredient problem, the KF certified Heinz Passover ketchup for the UK which contained kitniot. This product was sold in the US and elsewhere. There were also shortages of Passover certified tomato sauce, tomato juice and quinoa.

Chicken: There were price hikes on eggs and chicken shortages due to bird flu as well as smaller flocks as a result of the pandemic pressures.

Non-Passover products being sold as, or mixed in with Passover products: I heard stories of mixed cases of Passover and not-Passover products shipped with outside marking claiming Passover certification. Non-Passover products were delivered to people and establishments who had ordered Passover products. I do not know if these were deliberate or just incompetence.

Chalav Stam dairy: Dannon yogurts which were authorized for Passover were not produced. In New England the chalav stam Passover certified products were not delivered to stores with Passover sections that were in areas with Jewish populations. In New England, there was no chalav stam heavy cream or half and half. Stores with the chalav yisroel products jacked up their prices.

Kitniot and other products in the Passover section with multiple certifications: Some were for Passover and some were not which was very confusing although this has been a problem for a number of years.

Costco: In New England there were no salads; no chopped liver; and no tray cheese. Consumers needed to be there on the right day to buy many products because of limited supply.

Hopefully in 2023, companies will plan better to anticipate problems, so that the people who celebrate the Passover holiday, can get the products that they need.

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Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf  
Food Scientist - Kosher Food Specialist
Scharf Associates
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Sharon, MA 02067