Let's Eat

Box clever for a flavour of Israel - delivered directly to your door

Canadian Israeli, Emily Berg, sends artisan products from small producers around the world


The postman presents you with a box of gourmet goodies, all the way from Israel. Inside are pungent Israeli spices, sticky date syrup and smooth, nutty tahina.

The box is courtesy of Matana, founded by Canadian immigrant Emily Berg. Berg fell in love with Israel on a Birthright tour in her teens. In 2010, the then 25 year old went on a humanitarian trip to Northern India on which she met Israeli Ofir. Two years later, she moved to Israel to set up home with and eventually marry him.

In the early days, she worked in philanthropy, raising money from overseas to support her new homeland. A couple of years after she’d moved there, in July 2014, war broke out and her Israeli husband went off to serve as a reservist. He was gone for 40 days.

“It was a very intense time during which I kept hearing from donors asking what they could do to support Israel.”

Emails from Canadian Zionist organisations urged the diaspora to purchase Israeli products from companies like Ahava and Soda Stream. “They were all big companies but I knew there were medium and small businesses making wonderful products that also needed the support.”

Berg spotted a gap in the market for small businesses to export their products abroad and the idea for Matana was born. “The smaller businesses didn’t and don’t have e-commerce platforms; definitely not ones capable of selling to international markets. I wanted to find a way to open that up.”

She hit upon the idea of a subscription box model, allowing subscribers to receive different products in each delivery, so they could learn about what was out there. Next step was to tour her adopted country looking for artisan businesses to source products from. “I’d drive to follow up a lead. A kibbutz, for example, that I’d been told about with a bee farm. Then I would explore the area around it for other potential suppliers. I also looked in food stores in Tel Aviv, and as the business grew, people would start to contact me.”

In late 2014, Berg sent a pilot shipment of 30 boxes to friends and family in Toronto to gauge their reactions. She launched a website for the boxes and her first commercial shipment was dispatched in the summer of 2015. A box of products with notes about each one went to 50 or 60 subscribers. “Within a few months it had grown to more than 300 subscribers.”

The growth has allowed her to go from packing boxes in her living room to taking on a full-time business partner who takes care of the logistics from a separate warehouse. “I get to do all the choosing while Elad (Borkow) organises the packers. We have a third person who reaches out to the Jewish community for the corporate side of our business. Jewish organisations often order place large orders to thank employees or maybe their Boards of directors.”

The contents of the boxes vary monthly. “Originally I would focus on one vendor a month so I would tell their story. Kibbutz Neot Semadar for instance, where they make a bunch of products like dates, silan, date-based energy bars, almonds and other nuts. It made sense logistically as I was a one woman band.”

Now her operation is bigger, she’s able to include products from a range of vendors, with details of each of their stories. There are currently 25, each fitting her specifications. “They must practise sustainability, be ethical and the products must be made by local people and authentically Israeli. Quintessentially Israeli but with a modern twist. We want to showcase the best of this country.” As well as food, the boxes may contain soap, lotions, candles and small gifts. The contents have to weigh less than 1kg, which means Berg limits products to three to four per box.

Some of her producers include a range of organisations, including Sindyana of Galilee — a collective of Arab and Jewish women based near Nazareth, making high quality olive oil; za’atar; carob products and soaps made with crushed olive leaves; Kuchinate — “a group of asylum seekers who have a Tel Aviv studio where they make woven baskets from recycled or donated fabrics”; Yaara HaCacao — “a chocolatier who produces amazing chocolates in unique flavours with beautiful packaging. She employs immigrant women, mostly Russian-speaking”; and Rusty’s — founded by Tal Nimrodi, “this is a well-known Israeli brand of nut butters in unique flavours.”

For Purim, she partnered up with Inbal Baum, founder of food tour company, Delicious Israel. “We created a specially curated box from the vendors that Inbal visits in the shuks.”

“We’re passionate about the artisans and food producers and want to showcase their stories” says Baum, adding that “a lot of people want to remember Israel and be able to give a taste of it to their friends. Something tangible, tasty and memorable”.

If you can’t get to Israel any time soon, it’s a wonderful way to get a flavour of the country — or to spread the word of what a delicious place it is to be.


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive