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Apr 8, 2014 11:13 AM

Manischewitz Sold to Yet Another Equity Firm

I thought we had gotten past the old myth the kosher = inherently higher quality.

I see a number of potential problems for the kosher consumer in this new branding strategy.

Will the non-kosher consumer be willing to pay the higher price for kosher food, especially when so much supermarket food already has an OU, OK, etc.?
Why should the non-kosher consumer pay that price?
What happens when the non-kosher consumer realizes that "kosher" Manischewitz canned sardines are absolutely no different than Season canned sardines with the same OU?
What happens when they realize that many Manischewitz products taste inferior to their either non-kosher or kosher, but not "Jewish," branded counterparts?

I'm failing to understand the thinking behind this re-branding (and I've got an MBA in marketing). What concerns me is if/when this strategy tanks and Bain Capital has gotten all the money out of Mani that there is to get, what happens to the kosher consumer, especially at Passover time?

One on Mani's core strengths is its national distribution network. That means that in many smaller communities Manischewitz provides most of the KLP foods. If they no longer exist, much of the country will no longer have access to much Passover food in their local markets. Will another company be able to move in or will they even want to?

The last paragraph in particular is a real laugh. It really proves that at least that particular rabbi has no clue how the majority of non-Orthodox American Jews really relate to Passover.

Your opinions?

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  1. I totally disagree. The people on this board may have gotten past the myth of kosher = higher quality, but not the average consumer. Hebrew National still runs their "we answer to a higher authority" campaign. If Bain is buying Manischewitz to market via kosher = quality, then you can bet they've done their research to determine that it's a viable strategy.

    Also, what makes you think Manischewitz is higher priced? As you mentioned, plenty of other brands are kosher, so why should Manischewitz have higher costs than them for the same product? And you may know that other brands are kosher, but unless it's on the box/advertising, the average consumer doesn't know that kraft or nabisco is kosher.

    If Bain's strategy fails then they will presumably sell Manischewitz to someone else, they're not going to just shut down a company that still has value.

    And I don't see what you find odd about the last paragraph. The passover seder has the highest rate of any Jewish activity in the US. And you can bet those seders feature the maxwell house haggadah and a box of Manischewitz matzah.

    5 Replies
    1. re: avitrek

      Last first: What I find odd about the last paragraph is that, while most American Jews will be eating their matzah next week, a very large number of them will be using to make their ham and Swiss sandwiches. That is to say, a truly significant number of American Jews are not at all concerned about kashrut during Passover or any other time of the year. Manischewitz, to them, is a nostalgia product. It was on Bubbie's table, but it is not on their radar.

      As for higher priced, heck yeah, when you don't live in heavily Jewish market such as NY, NJ, LA, etc. These prices are from my local chain supermarket today. A 24 oz. jar of Mani gefilte fish is $10.49. A 10 oz. can of chicken broth is $2.49. A box of cake mix is $6.99, a bag of marshmallows is $4.59, and a box of Tam Tams is $4.59. So yes, I have every reason to believe that Manischewtiz's prices are higher. Non-kosher marshmallows average about $1/bag. Would you pay a 4.5x multiplier for marshmallows if you had a choice?

      As for doing their research, well sure. After all, buzz words are the thing to do. Are we buying "trans-fat free," "low fat," "low carb," "Atkins-friendly," "all natural," "probiotic," and "superfood?" Sure we are - for a while, at least until we move on to the next trend. I tend to believe that their research showed that some consumers will believe anything until something more appealing comes along. So what is the projected "shelf-life" of this trend?

      And you'd be right about assuming that Bain will sell Mani to the next venture capital firm - if they leave any value in the company. I know this isn't still the '80's, but these firms have no duty to anyone but their partners and if it makes sense to leverage any value a company has and leave them mired in debt, that's what will happen.

      1. re: rockycat

        Those were the prices at stop and shop (Brooklyn)
        There were a few items on sale, but for the most part, the prices were insane

      2. re: avitrek

        Bain has a history of saddling companies with debt while taking out capital for themselves. After they profited they then cut the company loose to deal with the debt. I don't know that is what would happen with Mani but it is a possibility.

        Hebrew National is not a good comparison, Their stuff tastes good and in many areas it is one of the few North East or (New York) flavored dogs available. In a sea of bologna dogs and bright red (only the first 1/4 inch is died bright red) dogs it is a desirable item

        1. re: chazzer

          if you read the article carefully, it looks like Bain (Sankaty) didn't buy them, rather they were debtholders who converted their interest into equity and took over from the prior owners as part of a restructuring.

          1. re: LA Hungry

            The times article is not very clear as to what the deal was, other then to mention that Sankaty did lend to Manil It is possible that they used this as leverage to purchase or convert the equity, or some combination of the two.

      3. It seems that the poster is confused--seasons is manischewitz's brand----the only real regular brand that compares is king oscar!!!!

        1. Important----manischewitz also makes NON-KOSHER foods via its cuisine innovations division.

          1 Reply
          1. re: joebenjamin

            You really have to dig deep to find that Cuisine Innovations has been operated as a subsidiary of Manischewitz since 2008. Considering that virtually no consumers will know that, how does that impact on the equity of the Manischewitz name among non-core consumers? Have you ever heard of their non-kosher consumer brand, Delicior? I doubt many people have.

            And yes, you are correct that Seasons is part of Mani but I fail to see how either of these facts relate to the question at hand. Manischewitz is suggesting that they broaden their consumer base by selling to the non-kosher consumer under the Manischewitz name. What does Cuisine Innovations have to do with that?

            And would it be better if I had said that the consumer can already buy Barilla tomato sauce with an OU rather than kosher Manischewitz tomato sauce with an OU? Same point, different brand names.