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The Schmooze

Conn. Supermarket To Retain Kosher Departments

There’s a happy ending for a kosher-food melodrama that played out in West Hartford, Conn., this week.

After the local Waldbaum’s was sold by owner A&P to an outfit called Big Y Supermarkets, local news outlets reported that Big Y might jettison kosher food from the rechristened store. “Waldbaum’s Closing Creates Concerns About Kosher in West Hartford,” blared the headline on NBC Connecticut’s website. “We really hope that they will have a kosher department out of necessity. We really need a Jewish market in Big Y,” pleaded Rivka Weiselfish, owner of local Hebraic emporium Judaica.

But kashrut has, apparently, triumphed — or at least the sales potential for kosher foods has. The Hartford Courant broke the news today that Big Y is going to “give kosher a chance,” as spokeswoman Claire D’Amour-Daley munificently put it. Big Y honchos met Monday with Rabbi Yitchok Adler, head of the Hartford Kashrut Commission, and agreed to offer fresh kosher meats, deli products and baked goods at the new store.

While neighboring Crown Market sells kosher meat and deli products, they’re certified by Conservative rabbis with the Greater Kashrut Group, NBC Connecticut reported; some Orthodox Jews will eat only the kosher foods certified by Orthodox rabbis. “I fully expected Big Y would keep their kosher departments,” said Marc Bokoff, Crown Market’s owner. “It’s a business decision on their part.”

Consumer-research outfit Mintel said sales of kosher foods totaled $12.5 billion in 2008, the last year it reported figures. That number represented a 64% increase since 2003. Moreover, Mintel wrote that Jews aren’t alone in fueling the market for kosher foods; the top reason people buy kosher is for food quality (62%), followed by “general healthfulness” (51%) and food safety (34%), the company reported. This contrasts sharply to the 14% of respondents who say they purchase kosher food because they follow kosher religious rules, according to a Mintel press release.

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