The cost of Friday dinner

By Leon Symons, August 15, 2008

The cost of making a Friday-night dinner is continuing to soar as the credit crunch bites.

Increased food, utility and fuel prices have led to sharply rising costs of essential dinner ingredients.

Food prices alone helped to lift inflation to a 16-year high last month, the steepest monthly climb for a decade, according to economists. And nowhere is this felt more than the Shabbat table.

Many kosher bakers have noticed customers scaling back what they buy, even when it comes to staple items such as challah.

Avi Avital, of Hendon Bagel Bakery, said his production costs had increased by up to 40 per cent. As a result, he has had to increase the cost of his bread.

"People are not spending like they did before and are buying less. Those who used to buy five or six challot a week now only buy one or two. People are really cutting down," he said.

Although he has put up his challah prices, Mr Avital is having to absorb some of the increased costs himself.

"We can't put our prices up according to wheat-price rises or people would just go somewhere non-kosher to get their bread," he said.

Bari Paraskeva, manager of Parkway Bakery's Finchley branch, said that some of his costs had also doubled.

"Eggs have gone up by 50 per cent, flour has gone up a third and margarine prices are also rising. We are also paying more in fuel. Where we used to fill up our van for £45, now it costs £70," he explained. As a result, the three Parkway bakeries in London have all had to put up the prices of challot.

Kiddush and kosher table wine is also more expensive.

Neil Isaacson, managing director of Hendon's Amazing Grapes wine shop, said that the biggest problem the company has faced concerned currency fluctuations. He said: "We can't absorb all the increased costs all the time so we are having to increase our prices."

He pays for Israeli wine in dollars and his European imports in euros, but even though the pound is stronger against the dollar he has not altered the stock he buys. He added: "People who used to buy £25 bottles are now buying £10 ones. We have seen that a fair bit. People are not buying the expensive things and it does affect profits."

Yitzi Freedman, managing director of Sussers in North London's Temple Fortune, said: "We are now paying about 10 to 15 per cent more for our stock than we were this time last year because the price of producing glass has increased and grapes have also become more expensive.

"Transport is also more expensive and so is shipping the wines.

"We have had to put up our prices as a result. Although we absorb some of the increased costs, we have to pass most of them on. It is 100 per cent affecting our profit margins as our expenses have increased and some of our customers are buying less or buying cheaper products."

Golders Green butcher Menachem Haziza was unequivocal: "In the past eight months everything has gone up and the whole balance has changed. People are buying less. Some of my regular customers who usually put in large orders have cut them down somewhat.

"All our prices have gone up, alongside rises for beef and lamb in the same period. We are working very hard to keep any rises down to a minimum. These products are going up in price very frequently, but I cannot keep increasing my prices in response to every rise that we experience.

"The only bit of support we have had was the cut in shechitah fees by the London Board of Shechitah, though it was only a half of a per cent off."

Simcha Klein, owner of the Wembley-based Mehadrin company, supplies candles to Tesco and Sainsbury's as well as the kosher sector.

He said that paraffin, an essential ingredient of candles, was oil-based and had been affected by the price rise but the situation was exacerbated by Israeli candle manufacturers constantly increasing the price. "They will manufacture only to order now for people who are prepared to pay the high prices," said Mr Klein.

"The manufacturers say if you want the goods, you pay the price. I asked them for a fixed price until 2009, but they refused."

He said there was little doubt that the credit crunch was affecting many observant families.

"The price of flour has also risen steeply. We sell one brand that is particularly good challah flour. Many families bake their own challot and the cost has risen between 50 and 60 per cent - and that's only one item".

The wholesale price of chickens rose dramatically before Pesach in the wake of soaring feed costs. Since then, the price has stabilised.

Stephen Grossman, managing director of the LewcoPak abattoir in Bedfordshire, said: "Chickens have increased in price at the farm gate but we have managed to limit the increase that has been passed on to the retailer and the consumer."


Then and now

Hendon Bagel Bakery
2007: £1.75; 2008: £2.20

Parkway Bakeries
2007: £1.50; 2008: £1.75

Daniel's, Temple Fortune
2007: £2.05; 2008: £2.20

Amazing Grapes
2007: Eliaz Caesaria Kiddush, £4.95; 2008: £5.45

Palwins Number 10 Kiddush
2007: £7.00; 2008: £7.30

Mehadrin importers
2007: 69p a box;
2008: expected to rise to £1.40


Last updated: 3:26pm, November 2 2010