It’s not easy to find kosher convenience food. Ready meals are especially thin on the ground.
That’s why so many of us cook from scratch. Sometimes, though, after a long day, you really don’t want to spend time at the stove.
Former chief executive (and founder) of Great Foods, Richard Loebenberg, and wife Jackie spotted that gap in the market and have now produced kosher versions of meaty meals that non-kosher diners have been enjoying for years.
“We did some market research and identified a niche in the market for quality kosher meals ready in 30 minutes or less, similar to those in the generic market in the chilled and frozen aisles of Marks and Spencer or Waitrose.”
The range of kosher frozen meals is stocked from this week at Tesco under the brand name, Eureka Cove. The meals will cost around £5 and for each meal purchased the couple will donate 25p to Chai Cancer Care. The charity supported Jackie when, shortly after launching their range in Costco in October 2016, she was diagnosed with cancer.
At the same time she was told she carried the BRCA gene. The family’s lives changed. “It was a huge shock and from that point I turned to Chai, who had already been a big support to my mother, who also had breast cancer.”
Chai, which offers support to patients and their families, immediately provided counselling to help Jackie, the mother of two teenagers, prepare for her double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
“Chai talked me through everything,” Jackie recalls. The former redhead’s hair has just grown back silver after several rounds of chemotherapy.
While many might have taken a break from the business, the couple worked throughout developing their range of preservative-free, frozen meals.
“The day before my operation, Richard and I were giving a presentation on the products to one of our major customers. It felt like our Eureka Cove journey and our cancer journey with Chai went hand-in-hand. We were never going to give up. We are not like that.”
“We are optimistic people, with the attitude that life goes on” adds Richard.
Jackie says the new products, which include family classics like spaghetti Bolognese and beef lasagne will take the pressure off Jewish families who, “just want to watch X Factor and relax at the weekend”.
Richard, 63, did his early food retail training at Marks and Spencer in the 1970s, seeking products across Europe with chefs like the Roux brothers. He then set up a charcuterie company — an unusual job for a Jewish boy — but a serious illness in 1996 altered his outlook. He embraced Judaism and healthy eating and left the charcuterie behind.
The South African born Londoner has been manufacturing kosher food for nearly 20 years.
He went on to launch Great Food, manufacturing healthy vegetarian ready-to-eat products including falafel which were baked and not fried.
He strongly believes in kosher eating and that underpins Eureka Cove. “Everything is produced to the highest ethical and kosher standards. That is important to me.
“We can trace everything back to the source and it is how I’ve always been.”
The meals are aimed at singles and those whose children have left home — and are also, Jackie suggests, “the perfect thing to send your children off to university with”.
She also knows how useful the meals are for recuperating patients: “When you’re sick, you don’t want to cook. People will always cook for you at first but that wears off and it is great to have a backup on a night that you just don’t have the strength.”
Combining the traumatic experience of launching a business and dealing with cancer must have been an ordeal, I suggest.
How did she cope?
“I’ve had the most loving husband and a fantastic family.
“Honestly now all I want is to use the opportunity to help others and hopefully help the community as well.”