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‘Man, Oh Manischewitz’: Kosher Food Merger Opens New Chapter for Famous Name

By the 1930s Manischewitz had opened a plant in Jersey City. But in 1990 the company was taken private by Kohlberg & Company, the leveraged buyout firm, for $42.5 million. Other takeovers by hedge funds and private investment firms followed. Today the firm is called the Manischewitz Company. It no longer makes many foods — even its iconic matzos are now made in Israel — but distributes Manischewitz-branded products and an assortment of other brands. Those include Horowitz Margareten and Goodman’s matzos; Rokeach, known for its borscht; Mother’s, known for its bottled gefilte fish; Mrs. Adler’s; and Carmel.

Kayco’s roots are in Slovakia, where the Herzog family had produced wine since the middle of the 19th century, even supplying Emperor Franz Joseph, monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Eugene Herzog survived the Holocaust in hiding and in 1948 reached the United States, where he went to work for a struggling wine company as a truck driver and salesman. By 1958 he was the majority stockholder and soon established the Kedem wine brand. His youngest son, David, and grandson, Mordy, now run the company from Bayonne, N.J.

As Kedem moved into foods, it reached distribution and importing agreements with 150 brands including Yehuda matzos, Empire soups and U-bet syrups. It wholly owns Gefen canned, frozen and packaged foods. Its sturdy profit engine is its Kedem wines division, which makes a sweet kosher wine and the popular grape juice. It also distributes dozens of other imported fine wines from vineyards around the world that can also be used for Sabbath and holiday rituals.

In 2017, Manischewitz tried to challenge Kedem’s dominance in grape juice by joining forces with the American behemoth Welch’s, arranging extra-scrupulous kosher certification and offering steep discounts. But the Kedem habit proved hard to break.

Manischewitz’s loss of market share has benefited some people. Masbia, which runs three soup kitchens and food pantries in Brooklyn and Queens, recently received a trailer-load of donations of potato chips and other products. With Wise potato chips bearing an OU seal, Manischewitz had been unable to sell its chips during the Passover season.

This content was originally published here.

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