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Matzo Business Booms Before And After Passover

Nicole Piper |
April 15, 2014 | 11:14 a.m. PDT

Contributing Reporter

Machine-made matzo (Photo by Kosherstock/Wikimedia Commons)
Machine-made matzo (Photo by Kosherstock/Wikimedia Commons)
It comes as no surprise that the matzo industry experiences its busiest season of the year during Passover, a weeklong Jewish holiday commemorating the escape of enslaved Jews from ancient Egypt. Although many food companies produce matzo to sell in grocery stores year-round, sales of the unleavened bread particularly boom this time of year, during the holiday when it is traditionally eaten.

SEE ALSO: Passover: Your Questions Answered

“Passover is our key season,” Avital Pessar, a representative of kosher food company Manischewitz, said in an interview. The Manischewitz Company was founded in 1888 and sells kosher food products to grocery stores both across the United States and internationally. It claims to be the largest manufacturer of matzo in the world. 

The business announced Tuesday that Sankaty Advisors, a credit affiliate of Bain Capital, had purchased Manischewitz. The sale “enables the company to maintain its position as the world's most iconic purveyor of kosher food,” Manischewitz’s Head Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz said in a press release. Pessar was unable to further comment on the recent acquisition.  

While Manischewitz is one of the most notable matzo producers in the country, they are not alone in the market for kosher foods. According to the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, U.S. supermarkets sell a total of roughly 25,000 kosher product lines. Other manufacturers such as Manischewitz’s biggest competitor, Streits Matzos, and Israel-based Yehuda Matzos also produce competitive quantities of the bread product in response to high demand during Passover.

SEE ALSO: 9 Unique Ways To Eat Matzah

Menachem Lubinsky, president and CEO of kosher consulting firm LUBICOM, told the Jewish Daily that matzo sales are growing, and that as a result, more of the bread is being produced mechanically. In 2009, about 28 percent of matzo was made with machines, but by 2013, almost 80 percent of the bread was machine-made.

Although the new process of making matzo is less traditional, Pessar said companies like Manischewitz still make sure kosher protocol is followed during the baking process, noting that the way the company cleans machines before Passover is crucial. “It has to be done by a rabbi and at a high heat,” she said, adding that in some cases a blowtorch may be used. 

Manischewitz must find ways to continually attract new customers, like using social media. “We’re growing our media base,” Pessar said. “We like to bring the generational gap down. We’re modern and we’re a lot more engagement based.”

The company also adds variety to the more traditional matzos they are so famous for. While Passover dough is simply wheat and water, daily matzo can have additional flavoring and ingredients. Pessar said the variety of flavors of daily matzo keeps the business alive before and after the week of Passover. The company has even begun to create gluten-free matzo to satisfy changing dietary needs.

“We’re always looking at new innovations and what trends are buzzing,” Pessar said. 

SEE ALSO: A Gluten-Free Guide to Passover

Despite these efforts to increase business, supermarkets still have to sell matzo at a lower price than what they bought it for during Passover. Furthermore, Israeli matzo may be much cheaper to make and sell than American-made matzo, thus hurting many domestic matzo businesses.

Regardless of where they purchase matzo, manufacturers agree that American consumers are buying the bread from stores far more frequently than they are hand-making it, resulting in a more lucrative business. Given the increasing demand and resulting competition, producers such as Manischewitz must find ways to innovate their matzo products, because though customers are definitely in the market for the Passover staple, they have many different options to choose from.

Reach Contributing Reporter Nicole Piper here.



 

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