Will Unleavened Buyout for Manischewitz Bring Kosher Crackers to the Mainstream?

A mashgiach inspects Passover matzo after it comes out of an oven at the Manischewitz factory in Newark, N.J. Photograph by Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg

Just days before the Jewish holiday of Passover, there might be a private equity takeover of the venerable Manischewitz, the world’s largest maker of matzo—or unleavened bread—eaten to commemorate the Biblical Exodus story. An announcement of the sale to Sankaty Advisors, an arm of Bain Capital, is expected later on Tuesday, according to a report in the New York Times.

For those who haven’t had an annual relationship with the Manischewitz brand, get ready to see the soup, macaroons, noodles, gefilte fish, and Tam Tams crackers made by the company appearing outside the kosher supermarket aisle. “We believe Manischewitz is well positioned to grow due to rising mainstream interest in kosher foods,” a representative for Sankaty said in statement, which described the deal as a “strategic investment.”

A kosher label means the food has been prepared according to Jewish dietary laws and sanctioned by a rabbi, but over the past five years non-Jewish consumers have increasingly recognized the designation as a marker of quality and food safety, says Stacey Bender, a spokeswoman for Manischewitz. The Passover-oriented brand has already become more of an everyday staple for shoppers: In 2000, sales tied to the holiday accounted for 80 percent of Manischewitz’s sales, compared with just 40 percent by 2011. The company believes its broth and macaroons have the most mainstream potential, according to Bender.

“It’s a pretty powerful certification to be kosher, because it means you are holding your product to a very high standard,” Mark Weinsten, interim chief executive officer of Manischewitz, told the Times. “Why is that not applicable to people who don’t keep kosher?”

Health-conscious consumers are paying attention to all sorts of claims on food, some of which command premium prices. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported in January, surveys found consumers are more likely to pay extra for foods labeled as locally sourced, certified organic, and organic. Perhaps they’ll find the kosher label worth the extra money, too.

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