The New York Times
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July 7, 2006
Advertising

Manischewitz Wants to Move to a Mainstream Aisle

By STUART ELLIOTT

THE leading marketer of kosher foods, Manischewitz, is expanding efforts to reach mainstream shoppers with what the company is calling its first campaign aimed at the general market as well as at consumers who traditionally buy kosher products for religious reasons.

The multimillion-dollar campaign, now under way, carries the theme "Simply Manischewitz." It includes online advertising, at manischewitz.com and Web sites like foodnetwork.com; ads in a general-market publication, Cooking Light magazine; ads sent to consumers as e-mail messages; and a cook-off with prizes provided by a mainstay brand, General Electric.

The campaign is being created for Manischewitz, part of the R.A.B. Food Group, by Joseph Jacobs Advertising in New York, the Manischewitz agency for three decades, and IMC, an interactive agency in Holmdel, N.J. The goal is to encourage consumers to ask grocers and other retailers to stock Manischewitz items not in the smaller kosher sections of stores, but in the more heavily trafficked aisles devoted to broad product categories like soup, crackers, noodles and sauces.

"Our aspiration is to be America's preferred specialty-food company," said Jeremy J. Fingerman, president and chief executive at the R.A.B. Food Group in Secaucus, N.J., owned by R.A.B. Holdings.

Although "kosher foods are clearly our heritage and our anchor," Mr. Fingerman said, "this is about the 'and,' not the 'or.' We're reasserting our core kosher credentials and positioning ourselves for broader growth."

•American shoppers spend more than $50 billion a year on kosher foods. Sales have been growing by double-digit percentages each year, compared with little if any growth each year for sales of packaged foods intended for the general market.

It is estimated that only one of five buyers of kosher foods is the traditional Jewish customer. Analysts have identified several trends in the general market that are fueling the popularity of foods certified to be kosher, including the boom in ethnic foods and the intensifying interest in food ingredients, quality, labeling and nutrition.

Research has found that many non-Jewish consumers perceive kosher foods, made in accordance with centuries-old dietary laws, to be purer and higher in quality than their nonkosher counterparts.

Among other brands seeking to capitalize on the increasing keenness for kosher foods are Morton salt, sold by the Morton International division of the Rohm & Haas Company, and Hebrew National meat products, sold by ConAgra Foods.

A campaign for Morton Coarse Kosher Salt features magazine ads showing a startled chef sprinkling the product on salmon fillets. Superimposed on the photograph is a headline that reads, "The secret's out."

The text of the ad declares: "It's the secret ingredient chefs have always used to make their dishes gourmet. Morton Coarse Kosher Salt. Now you know."

A campaign for Hebrew National kosher beef hot dogs, aimed at mothers, describes them as more nutritious than conventional frankfurters and reprises the brand's promise, "We answer to a higher authority."

Even an annual summer event at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, State Fair Meadowlands, has added a food stand, called the Kosher Spot, selling kosher meals and snacks.

The trend "represents a great change" from how kosher foods were historically sold, said Elie Rosenfeld, chief executive at Jacobs Advertising.

Mr. Rosenfeld acknowledged the daunting challenge of trying to take Manischewitz beyond its core consumer base into the far more competitive mainstream packaged-foods market.

"There's always a risk in business," he said. "You've got to be in it to win it."

The campaign is "a careful balance" of appeals to traditional and new customers and is being created in a way that "does not dilute our message," he added.

"The soccer mom is our quintessential Mrs. Manischewitz," Mr. Rosenfeld said, adding: "She can be anyone with three kids in a minivan. She can also be someone who has the weekly Sabbath dinner to prepare."

Consumers can enter the cook-off by submitting recipes using Manischewitz products.

"It's a kosher cooking contest that we hope will become the new Pillsbury Bake-Off," said David Rossi, vice president for marketing at the R.A.B. Food Group.

The cook-offs will be held in three regions in which Manischewitz sales are particularly strong: northern New Jersey, southern Florida and Southern California. Six finalists will compete at a cook-off to be held in New York in February 2007; the winner will receive a prize package that includes General Electric Profile appliances.

"Manischewitz is helping us reach a valuable target," said Michael McDermott, general manager for appliance merchandising at the consumer and industrial division of the General Electric Company in Louisville, Ky.

"From an advertising perspective, we focus on a broad demographic, women ages 34 to 54," Mr. McDermott said. "This is the first time we've been so targeted from an ethnic-market standpoint."

General Electric sells a variety of appliances under the Hotpoint, G.E., G.E. Profile and Monogram brands that are tailored for religious Jewish consumers.

For instance, ovens are equipped with what is called the Sabbath mode feature, intended to address the concern of religious Jews that they cannot turn appliances on and off during the Sabbath or certain holidays. The ovens are programmed to operate continuously, satisfying a criterion that it is permitted to use electricity that has already been turned on, and that the devices will not emit beeps or other tones while in operation.

General Electric also sells appliances with features meant for other ethnic consumers or mainstream consumers who enjoy ethnic cooking.

•For example, Mr. McDermott said, some ranges offer reversible wok grates and on others "we've added a fifth burner," an elongated griddle that can be used to cook Hispanic foods like quesadillas.

"Or you could do pancakes," he added.

In addition to Manischewitz, the R.A.B. Food Group sells kosher products under brand names like Goodman's and Horowitz Margareten. In May, the company acquired most of the assets of a longtime competitor, the Rokeach Food Corporation, whose kosher products have been sold under brand names like Rokeach, Mother's and Mrs. Adler's.

There will most likely be new ads for the Rokeach products under the new ownership, said Mr. Rosenfeld of Jacobs Advertising.