You may not realize it, but you are eating a lot more Israeli food these days than you know. I am not talking about the obvious Israeli crackers and cookies that are packaged with most brands featuring Hebrew writing. Just think of croutons, spices, snacks and even Matzah, all of which have a significant number of Israeli brands. It is no wonder that Israel’s food exports to the US have reached a record of $282 million in 2018, a more than $40 million increase since 2015.
Almost every aisle of the supermarket tells the story. The snack aisle is full of items like Bamba. The spice aisle has Pereg seasonings for soups, BBQ, chicken, and even shakshuka. The soup croutons are either Osem or Israeli under a private label by an American food company. Most of the machine-made matzah, including Manischewitz, is manufactured in Israel. Israeli brands like Yehuda are among the bestselling Matzot in the country. Strauss Ice Cream takes up many doors in the ice cream freezer.
Now you can find Mighty Sesame Tahini sitting next to traditional peanut butters on the shelves at Walmart. And then there is the myriad of Israeli wines. They routinely win awards in international competitions, be it Golan, Barkan or any of the other large number of Israeli wines that Kedem/Royal Wine Company imports.
Most of the Israeli exported foods are kosher certified in Israel, with many also adding a US certification. In 2017, exports reached more than $217 million, but demand for the Israeli products has continued to rise. The North American kosher food market remains the most dominant part of the market for Israeli food products. Israeli sources are hoping that sales of their quality food and wines expand dramatically in US supermarkets, particularly in many independent kosher stores. Israeli food products are no longer only for Israeli expatriates that live in the Valley in LA, Miami Beach or even Brooklyn. All of us are routinely eating Israeli food.
And we no longer buy Israeli products just to support Israel. Yes, there was a time when that was the case. I remember the day when Israeli manufactured products were looked down upon, both for their quality and presentation. The packaging was far inferior to American and European standards. Now fast forward to today when Israeli high tech is producing products that even the culinary savvy Europeans covet. The big craze over meatless hamburgers today? Well, a company in Israel, Soglowek, has been producing quality meatless products for 80 years. The Jewish Kosher market was and is in need of parve food, which is why Soglowek was so successful with its products all over the world. When there was a problem with animal diseases in Europe, Soglowek sold its products in Europe.
Israeli food marketing has outpaced its American and European counterparts. Just look at the marketing of a product like Klik chocolate or supermarket ads in Israel. Israeli food experts say that Israel never really had a cuisine. As a melting pot of over 100 countries, Israel had a mish-moshed culinary presentation that represented most of these countries.
Israel’s high tech prowess has enabled it to produce a new generation of healthy foods that has given it an edge in gluten-free, sugar-free, and other healthy food products. Its vertical farming capabilities and leadership role in agriculture, in general, has turned the country into a leader in natural and organic food. Look at all the Israeli manufactured foods in a store like Whole Foods.
When I spoke to many Israeli food manufacturers at Kosherfest, they had high praise for importers like Kayco and Paskesz, to name but two. They are putting a great deal of stock into expanding further in the American market. One manufacturer told me that he has basically maxed out in the Israeli market, which continues to grow and that expanding the American market is now a priority. I would not be surprised if exports of Israeli products to the US hit $350 million by 2022. Israeli wines alone are expected to increase by 15%-20% in the coming year.
We are eating so many Israeli products and not even realizing it. The other day I ate whole wheat pasta only to learn that it was from Israel. The pickles on the table were Israeli, as were the nuts and seeds. I could go and on. But just for the fun of it, see how many foods you eat in a day that are Israeli. Wow, eating good Israeli products and supporting the Israeli economy. That’s what you call a win-win! Bteyavon!