Kosher food festival looking to Muslim customers
By Chris Reese
Posted October 30 2003, 10:35 AM EST
NEW YORK - The world's largest kosher food showcase
might seem a strange place to make overtures to the
Muslim palate, but Jewish food manufacturers say
Muslims make up an increasing number of their
Participants in Kosherfest 2003 in New York on Tuesday
and Wednesday said kosher food, specially prepared to
meet Jewish dietary laws, often also met the needs of
pork-free Muslim diets.
"We have been told by supermarkets that there is an
increasing interest from the Muslim community," said
Menachem Lubinsky, president of festival sponsor IMC
Events and Exhibitions.
"The easiest way for (Muslims) to make sure that they
don't consume pork or prohibited products is by buying
kosher products," Lubinsky said
The kosher diet dictates that meat and dairy products
may not be cooked or eaten together. The animal or
fowl must be slaughtered and examined by someone
skilled and trained in kosher slaughtering.
But a wide range of foods carry the kosher label --
from peanut butter to popcorn -- meaning they have
been certified by an authorized observer.
Lubinsky said that of the estimated 11 million U.S.
kosher consumers -- people who actively look for
kosher products -- in 2002, about 44 percent were
Jewish, 19 percent were Muslims, 10 percent were
vegetarian or lactose intolerant, and 27 percent
simply felt that kosher products are of better quality
According to IMC studies, the U.S. kosher market was
worth $7 billion last year, Lubinsky said.
"The Muslim food concept is based on many of the same
things as the kosher diet," said Frederic
Sonnenschmidt, a retired dean of the Culinary
Institute of America.
The Muslim dietary laws, called halal, share ancient
religious similarities to the rules of kosher foods
and kosher can be an option for Muslims, said Mohammad
Sherwani, director of the Muslim Center of New York.
"Halal is the first choice, but after that kosher food
is the second choice," Sherwani said, adding that
although halal food is becoming more widely available
in supermarkets, kosher food is far more prevalent.
Kosherfest features a wide variety of kosher-only
cuisine from Campbell's vegetable soup to
wine-flavored nuts to sushi.
"We want to bring authentic Asian cuisine to even the
most religious person," said Daniel Berlin, who sends
rabbis around the world from Iceland to Thailand to
prepare fresh fish for his kosher Japanese catering
Others are sticking closer to home.
"You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Jewish
Dressing," said Detroit-based Todd Levitt, who peddles
his blend of celery seed and honey. "If there is
Italian dressing and Russian dressing, why isn't there
Jewish dressing? Well, now there is."
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