The neon lights of Tesco welcome me as my curled hands firmly push the trolley through its open doors. I’m readying myself for Pesach and this is my first visit to collect some pesachdik produce. Walking down the vastly stocked aisles, that stretch half the length of the store, it feels like an indoor road with produce lining either side, from cakes, to cereal to ready-made macaroons. I bump into some old familiar friends, the Gilberts and the Hoffmans are waving at me, Mrs Elswood pokes her head around the corner of the Rakusens and Baron Herzog looks a bit tipsy. The heaving shelves of the supermarkets are enticing us, displaying in their bright artificial light, all our kosher and pesach food desires.
I began to wonder how the big supermarkets source their kosher products, how do they know we love to munch on Gilberts Viennas and that we are all partial to some Hoffmans Chrayne. So I spoke to Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose to find out.
Tesco’s shelves are stocked year round by UK businesses that import from countries around the world; mainly deriving from Israel and America. The top three Tesco stores with the largest kosher sections in the whole of the UK are Borehamwood, Brent Cross and Cheetham Hill.
How does Tesco’s know what the consumer wants? Tesco told me that they work very closely with a panel from the Jewish community who advise them on what the customer needs. This has resulted in the launch, last August, of an improved range, since then Tesco has seen a huge uplift in sales. They reviewed and updated their frozen sections, with 80% of their grocery section being new. They also have plans to introduce a fresh chilled range in the summer. For this Pesach, Tesco has sourced over 200 products and hope to win the battle of the Pesach sales by providing “A fantastic range, supported by great promotions and competitive prices.” To tempt us further they have even extended their Pesach palate to include disposable tablewear.
Sainsbury’s is hot on Tesco’s heels and also supplies its Jewish consumer with kosher food in 100 of its stores, 15 of which have enlarged ranges, these include Golders Green, Finchley Road, Stanmore, Edgware, Hendon to name drop a few. Sainsbury’s changes the whole range for Pesach with 150 new lines being added. For the first time this year Sainsbury’s have also included disposable tablewear too. Their key lines remain Matzo, wine, grape juice and matzo meal. Stand out products are the specially sourced kosher for Pesach toothpaste and washing up liquid. They will also stock bottled water, pasta, soft drinks and they specifically bring in a Pesach version of the marble and chocolate cakes they stock all year round.
Sainsbury’s holds listening groups with its Jewish colleagues to further understand the range requirements for the Pesach season. Sainsbury’s told me how they hope to provide for their Jewish consumers, “We know how important Passover is to our Jewish customers. Sainsbury’s are proud to serve our communities with the best offering we can – that includes the very special time of Passover.”
Waitrose won’t pass over the opportunity to stock up in time for Pesach either, selling products for approximately a six week period. Their biggest ranges of products can be found in their Temple Fortune, Finchley Road, Brent Cross and Mill Hill shops. Matzo meal can be bought in some of their Little Waitrose stores too and should you find your bottle of Manechevitz has run dry before the four cups have been drank, the Waitrose store on the Channel Islands will stock a replacement for you. Waitrose explained “We know our customers like to shop around, so we ensure we give them as much visibility of the range, to help them plan for Passover.”
This year as I began my pre Pesach amble around Tesco, I invited some friends and family to join me. As we piled our trolleys with matzo and grape juice, I decided to document the abundance of choice that awaits us now and celebrate the supermarkets continued commitment to supplying kosher food to the Jewish community by taking a group selfie. Of course, we received some funny looks, the odd raised eyebrow, some even came to join in and all the while I couldn’t help but think how far we have come from carrying our unleavened bread on our backs.
The story of Pesach is about freedom and there is no greater symbol of this than walking in to any supermarket and picking up a packet of Matzo (and perhaps some charoszeth) from their well stocked shelves. Every little does help.