Photo Credit: Marc Gronich

Kosherfest was still a carb-fest but owners showed off healthier choices in the kosher food industry that went beyond plant-based foods.

Luliks spelt pasta won the award in the category of best pasta, soups, rice and grains.

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“Spelt is a grain from the wheat family and is a great source of fiber and protein. Spelt pasta lowers the blood sugar, great for the digestive system,” said Yossi Klein, 38, president of Rahway, NJ-based Prime Kosher Brands. “Winning this award gets the word out that we have the best pasta.”

Prime Kosher Brands does not own Luliks but “we have the exclusive distribution rights,” said Klein.

Winning in the Breads and Baked Goods category was Miami Beach-based Fiber Gourmet for their Light Challah.

Tehila Mocton, CEO of Fiber Gourmet, told The Jewish Press, “We’re showing off our pasta which has a lot of fiber in it and a lot less calories and net carbs than standard pasta. It benefits anyone who wants to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle because the fiber is good for everybody and most Americans don’t get the standard amount of the recommended amount that they should get. For anyone who wants to lose weight, there’s a lot fewer net carbs and about half the calories of standard pasta.”

Mocton said she received a food product patent for her pasta.

“We put in extremely high levels of fiber called resistant starch, which makes the calories go down and the fiber go up,” Mocton said. “We did a patent by putting a high level of fiber into our products. It has a low glycemic index but we don’t want to make the claim that it could help people with Type 2 diabetes.”

The fibergourmet.com website states, “Studies show that the fiber we use can lower blood sugar, boost gut health and reduce cancer risk. Our fiber, RS4, triggers hormones that make you feel fuller, helping you eat less.”

Mocton added, “There is no reason to have these unhealthy snacks and standard unhealthy pasta when you could be consuming something that tastes the same, looks the same, has the same texture as standard pasta and standard crackers but is healthier for you and less calories.”

In the Yogurt or Cheese category, Anderson International Foods won for their Stuff@Roll fresh mozzarella sheets.

“There is no substitute to personal meetings,” Yehuda Maimon, president of Anderson International Foods told The Jewish Press. “When you do a trade show virtually, it’s cold. There is no warm handshake…. You can’t see the body language virtually. When you stand next to someone when they are speaking you can sense the body language and the intonation of the words and the way the person you’re talking to would say things. It’s completely different than a live show. Absolutely, I prefer the live show.”

For Anderson International Foods, the past year-and-a-half has been painful.

“The cheese business is not only retail. When all the restaurants shut down, all this part of the business disappears. You don’t sell anything,” Maimon lamented. “Then there were the government programs which gave away cheese to families so they buy less from the stores. You have a lot of challenges, a lot of different things that affect your business. We survive. We develop new things. We do many things in-house to compensate for the loss of the other part of the business. We develop new items. We take seriously the changes in the climate and the usage of the plastics. We try to develop more product that can go in boxes with less wrapping. It’s not exactly the cheese business but it’s a business.”

Boro Park-based Freund’s Fish won two “Best of” awards. The judges at Kosherfest rated the company’s Sushi Maven Spicy Mayo best in the category of Condiments, Sauces, Dressings and Marinades. The second award for the venerable company was in the Frozen Entrees & Meal Components category for their Breaded Salmon Nuggets. Both items are health-conscious choices.

“I wasn’t surprised when we won. We know our products are really good products,” said Pincus Freund, managing partner of Freund’s Famous. “This is the first time we sent in products to the competition.

“The flavor and the spiciness of the Spicy Mayo is well-balanced,” Freund said. “There is no sugar added to the product. It’s very natural with only a few ingredients inside. We use chili peppers grown in the USA.

“The salmon cubes are made from fresh salmon whole pieces of fish, not ground up stuff, breaded, you just bake it off and it’s an instant meal. When you eat it with the mayo you get two winners on one plate. Another new product we have is soy wraps for wrapping sushi with vegetables and other healthy stuff. It’s gluten-free. It’s the new trend in the gluten-free healthy eating,” Freund added.

The big winner for Best New Product was 100 percent Pure Pistachio Oil by Setton International Foods.

The competition took place on Wednesday, October 20, at the Kosher Culinary Center located in the Marine Park/Mill Basin section of Brooklyn. A panel of judges representing different segments of the food industry judged the products for their originality, texture, taste, and packaging.

Alcohol products had a strong presence at Kosherfest this year. Winning in the category for Wines, Beer or Spirits was M&H (Milk and Honey) Distillery for their Elements Sherry. M&H is Israel’s first single malt whisky distillery. It began operating in 2014 in the southern portion of Tel Aviv. They import their product in 42 states.

“That’s the first kosher sherry whisky in the world,” Tal Chotiner, 50, vice president for international sales told The Jewish Press. “We did our own project with a rabbi from Barcelona that comes down to Jerez in southern Spain. We actually make our own sherry wines in Spain to season in the cask and bring them over to Tel Aviv. We tend to be very careful not to fall in love with what we do. We’re getting high recognition all over the world. It’s our first time here at Kosherfest. It’s always good to have a focus in a Jewish segment because we are part of it.”

This award-winning sherry whisky will be coming to a store shelf near you.

“Israel is a very small country but we have five climate zones. This is why we age whisky in different places in Israel,” Chotiner said. “Our first edition will be released in America in December and it’s going to be a whisky that we aged at the Dead Sea, the lowest place in the world. We keep our quality while thinking outside the box like this thing at the Dead Sea, or we age whisky in Pomegranate wine casks. It was great for Rosh Hashanah. You don’t have to eat the pomegranate, you have to drink it now. Our distilling capabilities and the way we work we don’t cut any corners, sometimes that’s not very Israeli but we do it like that.”

The owner of an alcohol company based in South Africa is getting into the kosher wine business.

“We’re the only kosher wine manufacturer in Cape Town,” Sion Gelgor, CEO of Kleine Draken Wines told The Jewish Press. “We do the full range of the reds, whites, grape juice and sweet sacramental.”

Gelgor said he bought this business as a side job.

“I’m actually a CPA by profession and a private wealth manager. I got into this as a side hustle and now it’s gone on to be more than a side hustle,” Gelgor said.

He’s hoping to get distribution to the United States during the first quarter of next year.

“The Cape Jewel brand is a new brand that was launched two years ago with a partner who has been a winemaker for 25 years. He’s been doing kosher wines for eight years now. Hopefully, before Pesach these wines will be sold in the United States. Maybe before Purim we can get our sparking grape juice in the United States to be part of Mishloach Manot. Once we get a distributor, it will be out of our hands as to where our product goes,” Gelgor said.

Another adventurer into the wine and spirits category has a gimmick in an attempt to separate him from the rest of the pack. Under the label of Promised Land, a Kosher for Passover beer named Exodus could be part of your Seder table next year.

“Our Kosher for Passover beer is a cider made with hops,” Yoni Schwartz, 41, president of Promised Land Beverage Company and a resident of Cedarhurst, Nassau County. “It tastes very much like a beer. Beer is not something you can have on Passover if it’s made out of grains or barley like beer normally is made. It’s an opportunity we saw in the market. People shouldn’t have to look around too much. They know where to go for their Passover beer. They can find it on passoverbeer.com and they can find it in your local kosher wine store. It would be about $15 to $18 for a six pack.”

Yoni Schwartz

During Kosherfest, Schwartz was dressed in garb you might see if you were wandering through the desert a few hundred years ago. He has developed a kosher Vermouth and a line of healthy sodas.

“Most sodas are full of chemicals and sugar,” Schwartz said. “Fresh Fizz Sodas are made with just juices and spices, and sweetened with honey. No preservatives, no extracts, no flavorings, just completely fresh and natural.”

Schwartz, 41, is an actuary when he’s not brewing beer.

“Brewing beer really started as a hobby. It’s a hobby that will hopefully be a business soon,” Schwartz said. “Customer acquisition costs? I’ll tell you when I have more customers.”

On display at Kosherfest was the first single malt whisky produced in the Czech Republic from Ceska Whisky labeled Trebitsch. Then there was the owner of Jabalna Arak, who bought a company in Lebanon and moved it to an industrial park near Tiberius in northern Israel. He produces arak, which is a distilled Levantine spirit of the anise family. It is translucent and unsweetened. Arak is traditionally made of only two ingredients, grapes and aniseed. Aniseeds are the seeds of the anise plant, and when crushed, their oil provides arak with a slight licorice taste. The bottles on display at Kosherfest were filled with water.

“Customs took away all my bottles,” company CEO Doron Frankenstein admitted. “I had four bottles in one luggage, four in another, two somewhere else. I wasn’t surprised they took it away from me. I was trying to smuggle it in. It didn’t work out. Two bottles you can bring in, I exceeded that limit. We’re not very good with numbers.”

As simple as the product is to produce, the alcohol mixture has some strange elements to it.

“I have only one bottle that I hide and I let very special people taste it. When you put ice cubes into it and add some water, you put 50 percent arak, it becomes white almost like milk. It’s a very smooth product. We usually have it with meat and heavier food.”

Arak

Now he’s looking to sell the company.

“I got this tremendous offer from someone who wants to take it over,” Frankenstein said. “I’m here to close deals. You have to make a living somehow.

If that doesn’t work out, he has other plans.

“I think I’m going to enter into an import agreement with one of the big players on the East Coast. The main problem is you need to have an importer that doesn’t only have a license for wine and beer but also alcohol. That’s not easy to find among Jewish importers. Within the next three months I’m going to begin to supply here in the United States.”

Most of the vendors complained about supply chain problems and having their product held up on barges in the ocean waiting for truckers to take their product to market. One company, however, found a way to dodge the supply chain bullet.

“We purchase the salmon and it comes straight to us,” Eli Kirshtein, culinary director for Atlanta-based Inland Seafood said. “We’re not dealing with container ships in the ocean. My fish is being flown in on Air France, Lufthansa or whatever. So, they fly directly into Hartsfield, the busiest airport in the world, and we pick it up ourselves. We smoke our own salmon. We have our own artisanal smokehouse in Atlanta. Our salmon is Norwegian, Chilean and some Pacific products as well.”

The attendance at Kosherfest was lighter than in previous years. The exhibit booths were spread out so no one felt crammed in. During these days of the coronavirus, it was probably for the best.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.
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