Imported Matzo Undercuts American Product

In the frenzied shopping days before Passover begins tomorrow, cheap or free matzo is one of the ways that supermarkets draw in customers, The Jewish Daily Forward reported. And those customers, toting long, expensive seder shopping lists, can be big catches — the average kosher family spends between $1,500 and $2,000 on Passover food, according to a matzo manufacturer quoted in the article.

But the rush to undercut each other on matzo givaways has led many retailers to cheap Israeli products, which has hurt American matzo manufacturers.

Last year, matzo sales totaled $86 million, [said Menachem Lubinsky, who runs a kosher consulting firm,] 80% of which was machine-made matzo. In 2009, Israeli matzo captured 28% of the American machine-made matzo market, Lubinsky said. Last year, he said, sales from Israel had increased to 40% of the market.

Lubinsky said demand was being driven by a rise in the quality of Israeli matzo and an improvement in packaging. But he said price was also a major factor.

American manufacturers are selling 5-pound bundles of matzo wholesale this year for between $10 and $12, Lubinsky said. The same Israeli matzo bundles are selling at between $6 and $7.

For shoppers such as Anat Gluzman, an Israeli shopping with her husband and son at Waldbaums, the cheaper the matzo the better.

“It all tastes the same anyway,” she said, jabbing her neck with her fingers “It all gets stuck in your throat.”

Meanwhile, for those who have already stocked up on matzo or matzo meal, another article in The Forward provided a matzo ball soup recipe and the instructional video above. The recipe came courtesy of Kutsher’s Tribeca, one of several restaurants offering modern takes on Jewish classics in what the article calls Jewish food’s “New York makeover moment.”

“Gefilte fish and quenelles (broth-simmered French dumplings) have met, and they seem to like each other,” said Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant who has been tracking industry trends for 30 years. “For one thing, with all due respect to my ancestors, any of these chefs is a better cook than my bubbe.”

The Forward offered a map, below, of restaurants that serve new-school Jewish classics, and an explanation of the trend:

Jewish culture expert and Forward columnist Jenna Weisman Joselit sees the return to schmaltz as an expression of the current ’60s zeitgeist expressed in shows like “Mad Men.” “It’s almost a faux nostalgia for something they never experienced in the first place,” said Joselit, who also cites a desire of a younger generation to express Jewish identity without committing to religious practice. Call it, if you will, shedding the yoke in favor of the yolk.

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