Let My Matzah Go | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Let My Matzah Go

Let My Matzah Go

Manischewitz’ new CEO aims to liberate its kosher products from the ethnic food aisle.

At well over a century old, Manischewitz has several competitive advantages.

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Nearly a year after Manischewitz was sold to Bain Capital with the hopes of reviving and expanding the company, Manischewitz has named a new CEO who sees Bubbe’s favorite brand busting out of the ethnic aisle even as it retains its Jewish bona fides.

The new leader, David Sugarman is a 20-year specialty food industry veteran who most recently served as President and CEO of The Allan Candy Company, a division of The Hershey Company.

“Your gefilte fish is very safe,” said Sugarman, a Toronto native who met his wife at Jewish summer camp in Connecticut. “When I pick up a box of Manischewitz matzah, it takes me back to a simpler time. We believe Manschewitz has an important role in connecting families, connecting back to traditions.”

But Sugarman also has experience taking ethnic foods mainstream. He launched Sabra’s line of fresh foods items in Canada. Hummus now beats salsa as the number one dip in the U.S., according to food and restaurant consulting firm Baum and Whiteman.

Sugarman will direct Manischewitz Company’s business strategy, develop and foster customer relationships, and oversee all daily operations.  He succeeds interim CEO Mark Weinsten, who served in the role for the past year.

“I am honored to be selected as the next leader of Manischewitz, a company with such strong brands and a rich history,” said Sugarman.

Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz founded Manischewitz to make Passover matzo in 1888 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1932, Rabbi Manischewitz opened a plant in Jersey City, N.J., replacing the Midwest operation. Manischewitz is the world’s largest matzo manufacturer and one of America’s largest kosher brands, making products ranging from gefilte fish, to matzo balls, to potato pancakes and more. All Manischewitz products are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.

Sugarman plans to identify key ethnic products and bring them to the masses. These items will be both existing products and new ones, but he wouldn't give any specific examples.

According to IBISWorld, Inc., the ethnic food market is a $28.6 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone and growing.

Manischewitz’ competitive edge is its Jewish vibe, said Melinda Strauss, founder of the popular kosher food blog Kitchen Tested.

“I think Jewish food is more what people are excited for than kosher,” she said.

Manischewitz should move towards fresher, less processed food, but not change too much of the traditions people love, Strauss said: “People see jarred gefilte fish and get excited because it’s what they grew up with. But there is no reason we can’t have an old product with a new view.”

Strauss suggests Manischewitz pick a few products that are already mainstream in the kosher market and bring them to the mass market with modern packaging.

They could use an existing product, such as Tam Tams crackers, and add trending or Jewish flavors, as Ten Acres is doing with their kosher chips, which come in a chicken soup flavor. Borscht crackers, anyone?

Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, TX. She blogs at What Jews Wanna Eat.

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