Days Before Passover, Manischewitz Sold To Private Equity Firm

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Your matzah is now big business. Just days before the holiday that represents its biggest sales of the year, kosher manufacturer Manishewitz has been bought by private equity firm Sankaty Advisors, a branch of Bain Capital.

The move represents the clearest sign yet that kosher food is now targeting mainstream success, even among the non-kosher observant.

The New York Times first reported the deal, which was for an undisclosed amount. The paper states that Sankaty has “expertise in revamping corporate strategy.”

Like much of the kosher industry, Manischewitz is planning to market its kosher certification not just as a religious guarantee, but as a sign of superior purity and health in today’s ingredient-conscious food world.

Jspace has previously reported on the growth of kosher food sales among non-Jews and the non-observant. A recent marketing survey found that only 15 percent of shoppers buying kosher food did so for religious reasons. Other popular motivations included “food quality, general healthfulness, and food safety.” The trend has been compared to the rise of once-niche labels like “organic” and “gluten-free.”

Even with a rise in off-season sales, Passover accounted for 40 percent of Manischewitz’s total sales in 2011.

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

Founded in 1888 in Cincinnati, Manischewitz was family owned until 1990. Its factory is now located in Newark, NJ. Manischewitz is now one of only two major matzah manufacturers remaining in the US (the other is Streit’s, on New York’s Lower East Side).

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