It's not often that you find "product of Israel" on the box when you reach for something at the supermarket, but you may start to see it a bit more frequently.
The 59th Summer Fancy Food Show, the largest international food and beverage show in North America, was at New York's Jacob Javits Center earlier this week, and 11 Israeli vendors came with hopes of finding American distributors for their products.
The four day food show brought several hundred vendors from across the world under one roof, each aisle of booths labeled by country. This was the first time in 10 years that Israel had its own aise.
In years past the Israeli vendors took booths among countries other than Israel where their products are sold, often in Europe, but this year they sat side by side with other Israelis.
"Each company helps each other out," Randi Leeds, a representative from Serendipity Communications, the PR organization in charge of the Israel pavillion said.
For instance, the Prince Tahina booth, one of the leading tahini brands in Israel, in addition to offering free samples of its tahini, also offered tahini cookies from a vendor next door, Elsa's Story.
"Food weaves its way through everyone's lives. Here politics are not playing a part. It's about the taste," Leeds said.
The Israel Pavilion was organized by the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, affiliated with the Israeli government. Israel's food exports have grown by 2.5% since 2011, totalling $2 billion, yet only $274 million of food exports go to North America. Most of Israel's food exports are sold to Europe, and the leading exports are Israel's processed fruits and vegetables.
All of the products in the Israel pavilion of the Fancy Food Show were certified kosher and manufactured in Israel, but their owners came from all over, including the United Kingdom and Germany.
Shelley Anne Hecht, the owner of Shelley Anne's crackers, bread rings, and bagel sticks, and winner of the 2012 SIAL innovation award, came looking for distribution in the United States. Currently her one-year-old company is sold in Israel and parts of Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Other retailers are already prominent on the shelves at Costco and Whole Foods, but you wouldn't know it. Elsa's Story, which sells home-style butter cookies, has products at those grocery stores but under a private label of a different name.
The Israelis also brought flavors that Americans have yet to discover. At the Olia olive oil booth there were bottles of olive oil mixed with ground coffee, intended for desserts. And at Aunt Berta's booth there were fresh fruit preserves of kiwi and passionfruit, flavors I know for a fact that Smucker's doesn't sell (but they should).
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