Jews around the tri-state area will clear store shelves of kosher-for-Passover goods over the next week — if there are any still left. From matzah to macaroons, supermarkets are offering a wide array of goods for the weeklong holiday, which is why A&P Supermarkets — and its banner stores Pathmark, Waldbaum’s and Food Emporium — are eager to reach this market. To that end they recently hired Barry Eizik to fill a newly created role as kosher category manager, and work to expand and improve the chain’s kosher offerings. Stores in the area will have a well-stocked kosher aisle for Passover and year-round, including prepared foods as well as meat and chicken. Eizik, who has worked in the kosher food industry for 30 years, spoke to The Jewish Week about what’s to come from A&P.
Q: Why was this position created?
A: It came about in A&P’s vision, that they realized that they are neglecting the ethnic customer. They wanted to expand the ethnic possibilities in different demographics. To that end they hired four people: one Jewish and kosher, one Hispanic, one Asian and one African-American to target these particular ethnicities. Their aim is to become more of a neighborhood store.
One of the major initiatives you undertook was to organize the sale of chametz at all A&P stores and chains. Why was this so important?
The sale of chametz was always a problem, since the biggest kosher food distributor that A&P uses, C&S, is privately owned by Jews. Any Jew that has in his possession chametz over holiday of Passover, other Orthodox Jews don’t want to get any benefit from it. I was able to get major kosher organizations [the Orthodox Union, Kof-K and Rabbi Elazar Mayer Teitz of Elizabeth, N.J.] involved in selling this chametz, so that it would be acceptable to the broadest majority of Orthodox Jews.
Why did you want the new kosher launch to coincide with Passover?
Passover is probably the biggest [holiday] in that Passover foods are all designated kosher for Passover, which is a big difference in kosher sales. Even if something is kosher year round, for Passover it has to have a special designation. Grocery-wise, it is the biggest selling season.
What changes will we see in the kosher aisle at A&P supermarkets?
The difference now is more variety, and more concentration on those areas that are demographically, highly Jewish concentrated areas. We are now focusing on the customer, to make it the neighborhood destination. That difference is that it is not a cookie-cutter store, it is specific to the neighborhood.
Several studies have come out recently showing that the majority of kosher consumers are not even Jewish — how does this affect your buying?
I’ve read some data on it. What is happening is that kosher certification has become a “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval. People think that if it is kosher it must be cleaner, and it must be produced in a better environment. It doesn’t affect my buying; it’s just a trend we’re seeing that is happening.
How have you seen the kosher market grow recently?
There’s definitely a growth and expansion in the variety of products that are available. You see this specifically for Passover. When I was a kid, there was never such a thing as kosher-for-Passover noodles; it was unheard of. Today you can get just about anything kosher that is available on the conventional market.
How do you decide what kosher products to stock?
Anything that I feel that the kosher customer is looking for. My main aim is to give them variety and value.