Kosher — to go

By Victoria Prever, June 13, 2008

We talk to the entrepreneurs reviving the kosher-sandwich market

If you keep kosher, finding lunch or a snack on-the-go is not easy. Unless you work in a predominantly Jewish area, it is not so simple to grab a quick sandwich or salad during the working day or on a day out.

Your can eat in an approved restaurant (difficult outside certain areas), eat at home, or plan ahead and pack yourself a kosher snack. Most likely your only option would be the packed lunch.

One couple spotted this gap in the market. In 1990, Hatton Garden jewellers David and Debby Colman found the jewellery market “a bit slow” and so decided to divide their shop in two — one half selling kosher sandwiches, the other jewellery. Their sandwich business did so well the jewellery had to go. Their success attracted the interest of the big guns. Safeways was first to retail DD’s sandwiches, followed by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Selfridges and Waitrose.

In 1995, the sandwich store was sold (to another kosher caterer) and DD’s moved to an industrial unit in Tottenham Hale. The business has flourished and recently merged with Hermolis & Co Ltd — Europe’s largest kosher-food manufacturer.

DD’s manufactures 4,000 units a day — sandwiches, salads, baguettes and bagels. The merger and economies of scale have also allowed DD’s to put off increasing sandwich prices, which despite the rising cost of ingredients “we haven’t increased in four years”. The company is also looking at investing in biodegradable packaging.

As well as packaged sandwiches, salads and fruit salads, it produces sandwich platters, all of which are approved by Kedassia and the Beth Din and are also Halal. They can be found in outlets in and around London and are also available in Heathrow’s Terminal 1, 4 and via Caffé Nero in the notorious Terminal 5. Further afield, Habers in Manchester and Gees Kosher Butchers in Birmingham stock them. Top-selling sandwich is salt beef with pickles and wholegrain mustard.

Another foodie couple to have entered this arena are Natalie Salama-Levy and husband Lionel Salama, who run Adafina, a gourmet delicatessen in London’s St John’s Wood. The delicatessen was recently included in Time Out’s Top 10 London delicatessens — a first for a kosher outlet.

Salama-Levy’s background was sourcing fine chocolates for top stores. She grew up in Hendon and moved to St John’s Wood when she married.

“I found myself trekking to Hendon and back for my kosher grocery shopping,” she says. “I thought I can’t be the only one.” And so she decided to open a kosher store. A site was found in Abbey Road and in 2006 the store opened.

The modern premises are stocked with kosher staples as well as a range of ready meals. The Salamas believe that kosher food can be gourmet, too. Says  Salama-Levy: “In the US, kosher food is aspirational and bought by Jews and non-Jews, and we think it should be like that here.” The US kosher market is growing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent per year.

One of her regulars was so impressed with the food, he sent his office canteen manager at Goldman Sachs to take a look. Adafina now supplies  Goldman’s and several other City banks daily with kosher lunchtime fare.

Their current range of parev sandwiches and salads includes bagels filled with smoked salmon and soya cream cheese, salt beef and pickle on seedy wholemeal bread, egg mayonnaise on grainy bread as well as a wrap filled with hummus and roasted vegetables. It changes seasonally.

The packaging is biodegradable and the food itself has won praise from the banking fraternity. It is also sold in gourmet delicatessen Villandry and can now be found in Selfridges Food Hall — on display in a dedicated kosher fridge.

And if summer ever arrives, Adafina also makes up bespoke picnic hampers.

Last updated: 3:01pm, June 12 2008