How kosher became a hot superstore label

How the major chains are increasingly rethinking their food policies.


By Denise Phillips, January 8, 2009
Follow The JC on Twitter
Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s are finding that many kosher items have a wide, general appeal

Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s are finding that many kosher items have a wide, general appeal

For those of us who live in the main Jewish areas of the major cities of the UK, kosher shopping has never been much of a problem. We have always had a wide range of kosher delis and shops available.

However, in the marginal neighbourhoods that cannot sustain a Jewish deli, the accessibility of kosher food has significantly improved over recent years with the provision of kosher items in the major supermarkets.

This is not only a function of consumer demand, but also of the hard work of several leading kosher food manufacturers. They have invested in new brands and new products to appeal both to kosher consumers and general shoppers. You can now buy regular hummus, diet hummus and hummus with pine nuts, and several flavours of parev ice cream without even visiting a deli.

Each of the main supermarket chains has a kosher buyer, whose job it is to develop the sector in terms of range and profitability. So how do those from Waitrose, Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s choose products for the kosher section?

All of the buyers see a well-stocked kosher section as a means of increasing other general grocery sales — a kind of a bait. By stocking some of the kosher essentials, more traditional Jewish shoppers might be tempted in, not only for those kosher items but also for their entire grocery shopping.

However, only a limited number of stores have a kosher section; naturally, those with a high number of Jewish customers. Waitrose has 35 stores with kosher sections; Asda has 19; Sainsbury’s has 85 and Morrisons has nine. (Tesco would not supply the information.)

The Waitrose buyer was keen to point out that its range of kosher products is actually far bigger than you might realise. Kosher products such as Tiptree jam, Toblerone chocolate and Skippy peanut butter are all sold in most stores but on the regular shelves, not the kosher section.

Although the Waitrose buyer is keen to expand his range of kosher products, he added: “Our core range of kosher products probably won’t change a great deal because it is based on heritage. Our range is about traditional products.”

Other buyers stress that it is not just the traditional Jewish brands or foods that they stock. In fact, they all have comprehensive range reviews annually and, as one buyer said, “We are always on the look out for new opportunities.”

This is because the supermarkets are keen to use variety and choice as a marketing weapon, rather than just price cutting.

In addition, some are actually looking to make some kosher foods more mainstream, especially those with more secular or broader appeal. So, matzah crackers, hummus and falafel are bought by Jews and non-Jews alike, although some — for example borscht and gefilte fish — have more limited appeal .

When it comes to pricing (see the list below), there is plenty of variety, and the supermarkets do not always represent the best value when compared to some of the popular Golders Green delis I price-checked.

Although there is still some time until Passover, Morrisons in Manchester already has plans in place; it will be staying open until midnight on the night before Seder night and aims to offer “everything under one roof”.

Asda is looking to introduce a new chilled kosher range in 2009 and their new store in Edmonton, North London, will have an extended kosher range.

Price comparison

Noshers Pinner Green Kosher Paradise Kays Golders Green Morrisons Asda Tesco Sainsbury Waitrose
Tomor Rakusen's soft sunflower margarine £0.99 £0.95 £0.89 £0.75 £1.04 £0.95 £0.54 -
Yarden hummus, 250g regular £1.85 £1.79 £1.79 £1.75 - £1.75 £1.75 £1.95
Mrs Elswood sweet cucumbers £1.39 £1.35 £1.25 £1.01 £1.27 £1.17 £1.30 £1.37
Yarden turkey viennas £2.80 £1.98 £2.65 £2.29 - £1.99 £2.34 £2.61
Osem croutons £1.75 - £1.50 - £1.35 - £1.40 -
Manischewitz lockshen £1.35 £1.35 £1.29 £1.39 £1.08 £1.08 £0.95 £0.99
Telma chicken stock £3.15 £2.99 £2.99 - £3.38 £2.79 £2.79 £2.79
Swedish glace vanilla ice cream £2.75 £2.40 £2.25 £1.96 £1.94 £1.97 £1.69 £1.95
Palwin's 10 kiddush wine £6.99 £6.25 - - £5.86 £5.95 £6.24 -
    Last updated: 5:58pm, January 8 2009