The Manischewitz Company
TypePrivately held company
IndustryKosher Foods
FoundedCincinnati, Ohio (1888 (1888))
FounderDov Behr Manischewitz
Headquarters
80 Avenue K, Newark, New Jersey
,
United States[1]
Area served
Nationwide
Products
OwnerKayco Kosher & Beyond - Bayonne, NJ
Websitewww.manischewitz.com

Manischewitz (/ˌmænɪˈʃɛvɪts/; Hebrew: מנישביץ) is a leading brand of kosher products based in the United States, best known for its matzo and kosher wine. Founded in 1888, it became a public corporation in 1923 and remained under family control until January 1991,[2] when it was bought out by a private equity firm. On April 7, 2014, Sankaty Advisors, an arm of the private equity firm Bain Capital, bought the company from a group that included the investment firm Harbinger.[3] It is the world's largest Matzo manufacturer, one of America's largest kosher brands, and the first American exporter of matzo.[4]

History

One of the locations the company held in Cincinnati in its formative years, 1926
One of the locations the company held in Cincinnati in its formative years, 1926

The B. Manischewitz Company, LLC was founded by Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz, in 1888 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Company went public in 1923 and remained a public corporation until it was taken private in a management buyout led by Kohlberg & Company in 1990 for $42.5 million.[5][6][7] By 1926, the Cuvier Press Club described it as the largest firm of matzo bakers in the world, and the first American exporter of the flatbread.[4]

In the 1930s, in order to produce their products all year round, the company created Tam-Tam crackers, which are small hexagonal matzos, according to a recent book Manischewitz: The Matzo Family, written by the founder's great-granddaughter, Laura Manischewitz Alpern (though the modern Tam Tam is quite different from matzo). Their original product, the square matzo, revolutionized matzo-making, which until the family's production process, used to consist of rolling the matzo and trimming the edges by hand. It was also considered quite revolutionary to make matzos by machine.[8] The company built a second production site on Bay Street in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1932, to better serve the large Jewish community of the New York metropolitan area,[9] and the Cincinnati facility was eventually closed in 1958.

In 1990, a $1 million fine was levied against the company for price fixing with its two main competitors at the time, Streit's and Horowitz-Margareten.[10] In 1998, Richard A. Bernstein purchased the company from KKR.[11] In 2004 its name was changed to the R.A.B. Food Group, LLC and today it is known as The Manischewitz Company.[9]

From 2007 to 2014, Manischewitz was owned by the hedge fund Harbinger Capital.[12] Manischewitz remains the world's top matzo manufacturer and one of America's top kosher brands.[5] On June 14, 2011, a new 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2) facility opened at 80 Avenue K in the East Ward of Newark, New Jersey, serving as both a plant and corporate headquarters for the company.[13] In July 2017 the company closed the facility in favor of another New Jersey location, cutting 169 jobs.[14]

Foods

Potato latke made from Manischewitz brand mix frying in hot olive oil.
Potato latke made from Manischewitz brand mix frying in hot olive oil.
Package of Goodman's macaroons, a Manischewitz product
Package of Goodman's macaroons, a Manischewitz product

Manischewitz has revolutionized the way in which matzo is produced. By mass-producing matzos they turned the output of matzo-making from a strictly local product into a national, and eventually international product. Manischewitz matzos were also the first to feature uniform texture, taste, and feel. When the company first began shipping matzos they also decided to make them square, whereas before matzos had been consistently round.[7][15] Manischewitz's main innovation - making matzos with machines instead of by hand - aroused some initial controversy. Some rabbis of the era claimed that in order to be acceptable for religious use, the matzo had to have been made by a man and not a machine.[5][16] Manischewitz was ultimately able to overcome these concerns, in part by demonstrating meticulous adherence to the halakha (religious rules).[16]

Manischewitz acquired Horowitz-Margareten Matzo and manufactures Goodman matzo and macaroons. In addition to matzo, Manischewitz-labeled foods include cookies, macaroons, pasta, and soups. Other well-known kosher brands associated with R.A.B. include Carmel, Elite, Mother's, Rokeach, Mrs. Adler's, and Tradition; many of these were acquired by R.A.B. after successful runs as independent kosher labels.[17]

R.A.B. is not involved with Manischewitz wine, however, except in name. Beginning in 1986, it licensed the Manischewitz brand name to the Manischewitz Wine Company, a subsidiary of Canandaigua Wine Company (now Constellation Brands).[18] In 2021, the brand was acquired by E & J Gallo Winery.[19]

Wine

Bottle of Manischewitz
Bottle of Manischewitz

The Manischewitz winery is located in Canandaigua, New York.[20] It is the property of E & J Gallo, which continues to license the Manischewitz name from R.A.B. Foods.[21] The winery was founded by Leo Star and run by the Star family since 1927.

The Manischewitz winery is best known for its budget concord wine, which is widely available in much of North America.[22] Made from labrusca grapes, it is combined with a large amount of residual sugar.[23] Because concord was popularized by the U.S. media over the years as being the kosher wine, it is often the wine that is used to celebrate Passover. However, Manischewitz's sweet Concord contains corn syrup, a sweetener derived from corn, which is forbidden during Passover among Ashkenazi Jews. Manischewitz produces special Kosher for Passover bottling of its wines, which are sweetened with cane sugar as opposed to the corn syrup that is used throughout the year.[24][25]

The sweetness of Manischewitz wine and other kosher wines is often the fodder of jokes. However, Kosher wine does not have to be sweet. One of the reasons for the prevalence of sweet kosher wine in the U.S., and in the Americas generally, dates back to the early days of Jews in America, when they needed to locally produce kosher wine for the Kiddush ritual that is performed on the Shabbat and holidays. The combination of a limited choice of grape varieties that could grow in the areas where Jews had settled, along with the limited amount of time that was available to produce the wine and a market that was dominated by hard cider, yielded a bitter wine that had to be sweetened in order to make it palatable.[26]

Because the sweet Manischewitz variety of wine is so well known in the U.S., the existence of a thriving kosher wine industry that is anchored by vineyards in France and Israel, along with a growing U.S. industry, is often a surprise to Americans who are unaccustomed to taking kosher wine seriously.[18]

Advertising

The company has used the slogan "Man-O-Manischewitz What a Wine!" for advertising. The company and this advertising campaign are fictionally represented in season five of Mad Men as a new account.[27]

Controversies

See also

References

  1. ^ Verdon, Joan (June 15, 2011). "Manischewitz calls Newark a key ingredient in its growth plan". NorthJersey.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Manischewitz Fined $1 Million for Fixing the Price of Matzah". JTA.org (Jewish Telegraphic Agency). May 21, 1991.
  3. ^ "Sankaty Advisors, an arm of private equity firm Bain Capital, bought the company from a group that included the investment firm Harbinger". The New York Times. April 8, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Cuvier Press Club (1926). Cincinnati, 'the Queen City': Newspaper Reference Book. Cincinnati. p. 109. This concern was the first to export matzos from the United States, and now exports to all civilized countries of the world nearly 1,000,000 pounds annually.
  5. ^ a b c Lukas, Paul (April 1, 2004). "Days of Wine and Matzos: How a Cincinnati family became the name in kosher foods". CNN Money. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  6. ^ Martin, Douglas (September 23, 2003). "Bernard Manischewitz, Last in Family Firm, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  7. ^ a b Alpern, Lara Manishewitz (2008). Manischewitz: The Matzo Family. ktav. ISBN 978-1-60280-003-8.
  8. ^ "Cincinnati Enquirer". Cincinnati.com. April 8, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Manishewitz - History". Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  10. ^ Tregarthen, Timothy (1999). The Matzo Fix. Worth Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57259-418-0.
  11. ^ "History of The B. Manischewitz Company, LLC – FundingUniverse". FundingUniverse.com. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  12. ^ "For Falcone, No Joy in the Sale of Manischewitz". New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  13. ^ "Manischewitz Company Relocates Headquarters to Newark - a set on Flickr". Flickr.com. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  14. ^ "Manischewitz reportedly shutting down Newark plant". July 18, 2017.
  15. ^ Ginsburg, Johanna (March 27, 2008). "A Manischewitz writes family history of kosher food giant". New Jersey Jewish News. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  16. ^ a b Kahn, Bruce. "The Americanization of Matzah". Archived from the original on October 15, 2011. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  17. ^ "R.A.B. Food Group LLC". Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  18. ^ a b Howard G. Goldberg (March 23, 1994). "Manischewitz Only Sweet? Not Anymore". New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2007.
  19. ^ Pomranz, Mike (January 6, 2021). "Some Well-Known Wines Are Under New Ownership as E & J Gallo Acquires Over 30 Brands from Constellation". Food & Wine. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  20. ^ "Manischewitz wine - heritage - history". Archived from the original on August 1, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  21. ^ Pomranz, Mike (January 6, 2021). "Some Well-Known Wines Are Under New Ownership as E & J Gallo Acquires Over 30 Brands from Constellation". Food & Wine. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  22. ^ "Manaschewitz wine - mahalo.com". Retrieved September 7, 2008.
  23. ^ "The History of Manischewitz; Or, Where Did That Sweet Grape Wine Come From?". March 11, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  24. ^ "Manischewitz wine - FAQ". Archived from the original on June 6, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2008.
  25. ^ "Products: Kosher for Passover". Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  26. ^ "The 11th Plague? Why People Drink Sweet Wine on Passover". The Atlantic. April 14, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  27. ^ "Man-O-Manischewitz!". Cardcow.com. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  28. ^ Heshy Fried (May 6, 2009), Orthodox Jews Don’t Drink Manischewitz, retrieved August 22, 2022
  29. ^ Joseph Berger (April 7, 2017). "The Grape Juice Wars of Passover". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2022. going back generations
  30. ^ Why Is Manischewitz Wine Not Kosher For Passover?, Sabbath-observant Jews