What Does The Future Hold For The Jewish CPG Market?
by Chloe Gordon on 10/31/2022 | 7 Minute Read
It's both a stereotype and a universal truth that Jewish mothers love to show their deep, unconditional, overbearing love through food.
Growing up, you couldn't walk into my grandmother's kitchen without being offered, at the very least, an appetizer, two meals, and dessert. Not hungry? Doesn't matter—you weren't leaving the kitchen without at least eighteen bites. Food was how my grandmother shared her love, and the traditions and food she served created a warm atmosphere within my family.
While the stereotype rings true for most Jewish families, food does hold a more significant, deeper meaning within each Jewish holiday for all observing Jews. Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish new year, is celebrated with apples and honey to summon a sweet new year ahead. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, where fasting forces you to focus on your spirituality. Passover celebrates the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, and the ritual holiday meal contains many traditional foods like Matzah, an unleavened bread that represents what the Jews ate while fleeing. Food plays a massive role in remembering history and honoring the past.
Each family eats many of the same traditional foods for the holidays, but there's often a competitive nature surrounding the foods and the brands served. For example, brisket plays a big part in many meals, and family recipes are tightly safeguarded. And even when these recipes aren't protected, there is always someone in the family that believes their brisket is the anointed one. I asked my friend, an 80-year-old Jewish woman from the south, why Jewish people feel the need to protect their recipes or think their family recipe is the best one possible. She noted that these recipes get passed down for generations, making them a family heirloom and evolving into something special that each family treasures as their own.
Along with these recipes passed down through the years, the products used to make them have also carried on. So if you were raised eating Manischewitz matzah on Passover, the tradition continues, and it's highly doubtful you'll switch brands as you age.
"We found that demographically speaking, consumers value brands that are authentic and true to themselves, not necessarily 'modern' brands," says Yael Miller, partner and creative director of We Are Miller, the agency that worked on the recent rebrand for Manischewitz. "The brand identity we created is clear and iconic. We anchored it using traditional aspects with a classic-style typeface and overall brand feel. The vibe we were aiming for is proud of its traditional heritage, yet clean and easy on the eyes. A sense of trustworthiness was important, too."
Manischewitz also offers a Kosher wine, a sickeningly sweet yet celebrated drink that feels almost like an inside joke amongst Jewish dining tables. The taste isn't spectacular, mimicking something more like grape juice than an alcoholic beverage, but having a glass of Manischewitz feels like taking a sip for the greater good. "For me, putting Manischewitz on the Seder table is like using Yiddish slang in everyday conversation," wrote Samantha Corbin in Brokelyn. "It's a celebration of cultural Judaism, a Judaism that can be observant but liberated from religious gravitas."
Kayco, formally known as the Kenover Marketing Corporation, announced that it had agreed with the Manischewitz Company to acquire its range of products. "Since by some estimates the two companies make up more than 50 percent of the kosher market, the announcement was seen in the kosher world as the equivalent of General Motors acquiring Ford," Joseph Berger wrote in The New York Times about the merger.
As far as traditional Jewish CPG brands go, the space is a monopoly currently owned by Kayco. And while Jewish holidays value "classic" brands and products, there's certainly room for growth when there's a stranglehold within a specific market.
You could even say that the Jewish CPG space is missing new brands that value the traditional classics while also recognizing a current, more modern market.
But breaking into the market isn't as simple as boxing up Matzah and calling it a day. Often, to be accepted into Jewish homes, these foods must be Kosher, meaning they must abide by the rules and regulations of Jewish law. Kosher laws prohibit not only certain foods from being eaten, but also a particular way food gets produced and prepared before consumption. Becoming a Kosher brand is a regulation that might deter new brands from trying to break into the market.
Yet, there are a few brands making headway in the space. Not only are they valuing beloved Jewish customs, their packaging systems reflect them through a contemporary lens.
"The challenge some Jewish-forward brands may be facing is that they come across as 'exclusionary' or ethnic, and mainstream consumers don't relate to these products," mentioned Miller. "Retail store buyers will also put these products in the ethnic aisle, further isolating these products from the mainstream consumer."
"I would love to see more Jewish brands make their brands more interesting and relevant to mainstream consumers that may not be familiar with Jewish or ethnic foods and flavors, similar to Mexican and Asian flavors which have successfully penetrated the CPG space," noted Miller. "Many traditional Jewish foods are simple, nostalgic, and uncomplicated as far as flavor goes, making these foods easy to like. Some examples of lesser-known but easy-to-like traditional Jewish foods are Hamantaschen cookies (fruit-filled triangle-shaped cookies), Latkes (fried potato patties), and Challah (soft braided bread that’s delicious right out of the oven). Many consumers already know about kosher deli pickles, pickled herring, rugelach, and chicken matzo ball soup. There are lots of great Jewish-heritage foods out there."
These brands, pushing the Jewish CPG market into a more modern space, include Challah Dolly, Challah Dad, Schmutz, Matzo Project, and Babka Bailout. Each of these brands keeps traditional aspects of Jewish CPG brand packaging in mind through colors, typography, and illustrations, while modernizing the look and feel. “While many Jewish CPG brands exist, they tend to focus their sales on the Kosher consumer demographic,” noted Miller. "Jewish brands that innovate in flavor and communicate with their branding and packaging design have a great opportunity to bring fresh food flavors and products to more consumers,”
Spritzly, for example, is a Kosher-certified grape seltzer that's a nod toward Manischewitz's grape wine. Founders Moshe Frank and Tzvi Silberstein thoughtfully created a brand that mimics the look of seltzers on the market through white space and a vertical logo. It would be innovative if the packaging went further and implemented a more playful typography design or even used a monochrome color-blocking system instead of white space. Still, the design does prove that Kosher brands can fit into the mainstream aesthetic.
Challah Dad is another Jewish brand that has fused the classic Jewish bread, Challah, with great design. The brand's bright blue hue mimics the same shade found on the Israeli flag, and the packaging is beyond simple. The crisp white paper stamped with a simple logo allows what's within the packaging to shine. Challah Dad has created a branding system based on quirky illustrations and Yiddish slang, but the design feels refreshing and approachable to all. You can relate to Challad dad if you’re a 20-something or 80-something, and what religion you practice has nothing to do with the brand’s effervescent design.
Ashley Albert and Kevin Rodriguez created the brand The Matzo Project to help transfer matzo from the Ethnic food section and move it to the mainstream cracker aisle, ideally somewhere between rustic gourmet crackers and garlic rosemary toasties. The brand's packaging features an illustrated grandmother on the front with a speech bubble out of her mouth, boldly stating, "Would it kill you to try something new?" The design perfectly encapsulates the deeply ingrained habits of Jewish brand loyalty. And while the packaging and branding are utterly flawless, it's critical to note that this brand isn't certified Kosher for Passover. Most practicing Jews typically only eat matzo during Passover. While this brand carries exceptional branding and packaging, it almost feels like it should be a cracker instead of matzo as you can't technically devour it during the only time of year that Jews eat it.
Seeing how the Jewish food space evolves in the future will be fascinating. Of course, the ideal spot for a new brand to come into play would be one where traditional Jewish homes can feel comfortable serving its products, and non-Jewish people don't feel disoriented by the distinctive foods within the brand’ range.
If I were to bring a new Jewish CPG brand to my family's Hanukkah table this year, it would absolutely stir up controversy. My grandfather might, unwillingly, give it a try, roll his eyes, and reach for a traditional brand instead. In contrast, my parents would be glad to see me taking an interest in my Jewish roots and would happily oblige to a new product for that reason alone. On the other hand, my cousins would gladly try something fresh and new, regardless of what my other family members think. Change, and how we react to it, is undoubtedly generational, but I believe there is hope for these new brands, excluding the 70-90 year old demographic.