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Kosher 'R' Us

November 1, 2007 By:
Frank Rosci, JE Feature
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When some activity or circumstance isn't quite right, it's often said that the thing in question just isn't "kosher." Not so with today's kosher business, in which everything from cough medicine to chocolate candy is getting that special seal of approval when warranted.

The growing list of products includes a number of new food items, too, such as Kosher ChefsDiet in Manhattan, billed as "America's only five-star kosher diet," and WaddaJuice of Westport, Conn., the all-natural juice beverage made especially for kids.

And there are even vending machines -- from Kosher Vending Industries in Valley Cottage, N.Y. -- that dispense hot kosher foods, the brainchild of two entrepreneurs from North Jersey.

The creation and institution of these and other such products are supervised from inception to dissemination with clarity of thought and commitment to conscience by the Orthodox Union.

Why the sudden burst?

"There is a general impression about kosher products that people look for and expect quality in; for example, people buy [kosher] because they want to eat fresh, tasty and healthy meals," explained Brooklyn-based Rabbi David Tropper, a Kosher ChefsDiet consultant who has worked as a liaison with the religious community for the company since its inception in 2003.

"I focus on the way the business interacts with Orthodox people, but interest in kosher products also goes beyond that community," he continued. "There is and will continue to be a growing awareness of kosher products by more and more people -- and not only Jewish people."

Daily home delivery of freshly prepared meals (either glatt kosher for meat or cholov Yisroel for dairy, the most stringently supervised method for kosher foods) is available, as are frozen meals, which come in a Styrofoam cooler on dry ice. The fresh option is available in New York and parts of New Jersey; frozen can be had in all states.

"The meals are for people who want to lose weight, and for those who have no time to cook and prepare meals for themselves. The bottom line for both groups is that they're eating healthy, getting variety and, with no shopping and no cooking, it's very convenient also," remarked Tropper.

Some of the numerous ChefsDiet (1-866-805-8108, www.chefsdiet.com) selections include a Western omelet with home fries for breakfast, tricolor cheese tortellini for lunch, and pot roast with roasted parsnips and string beans for dinner.

Got Juice?
At WaddaJuice, founder Jordan Kerner talked about how he got the idea to start the company.

"My two young sons, now 9 and 7, were the impetus to do this," he explained. "One morning in August 2002, I was eating in a diner in Norwalk, Conn., with my 3-year-old son Ty, my 2-year-old son Luke, my sister Heather and her boyfriend, who was talking about Glaceau vitamin water, the company for which he works.

"As he talked and I listened to his story about the company's meteoric rise -- after identifying a segment of the beverage market that wanted fortified waters -- and as I watched my kids drink their sippy cups of juice and water that I mixed to cut down on the amount of sugar they were having, the idea dawned on me to create a tasty, healthful juice alternative for kids -- 15 percent of whom in the U.S. are either overweight or obese."

WaddaJuice and WaddaBlast, another line of Kerner-created juices, he said, are made with pure juice and purified water, and have half the sugar, calories and carbohydrates of 100 percent juice -- which has the same and, in some cases, more sugar and calories than soda.

"Because of their good flavor, you can't tell our juices are low in sugar -- and that's not such a bad thing," said Kerner.

Also, the O.U. products contain no added sweeteners, flavors, dyes, preservatives or additives.

WaddaJuice (1-866-wadda4u; www.waddajuice.com) is available in three flavors: Apple, Wild Berry and White Grape, while WaddaBlast comes in Lodda Fruit, Lemonade and Watermelon.

Those who want a hot nosh can turn to the vending machines of Kosher Vending Industries (1-877-268-1818; www.koshervendingindustries.com), which dispense a variety of fresh foods, sanctioned by the O.U., according to Alan Cohnen, co-founder and co-president with his partner, Doran Fetman.

"Doran, who has experience in the kosher-concessions business in the New York area, and I are doing this because it's never been done before, and because there was a need to supply kosher foods in places and settings where otherwise it wasn't available, to give Jewish people there a choice," explained Cohnen.

After starting the company in September 2006, the first of the partners' machines was placed in the Hackensack University Medical Center in North Jersey.

Cohnen was upbeat about the Philadelphia market: "We are currently seeking a licensee in the area, as we believe there are numerous opportunities for our machines in all of Pennsylvania -- such as at Penn State -- and there are other avenues where the machines could be placed. Either way, we'll be in the area in three to six months."

Typical hot foods from the machines include a vegetable cutlet, mozzarella sticks, cheese pizza, onion rings and freshly grilled hot dogs in warm buns -- with the meat and bread prepared separately, of course.

 

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