Passover 2020 and the Changing Face of Holiday Retail

by Edwin Howes
Co-op Food Stores Holiday Merchandiser

The Passover holiday celebrates the Biblical account of the Jewish nation’s emancipation from slavery in ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. I have been the person at the Co-op who has organized our Passover promotions for the past 26 years.  A huge difference in time, that is for sure!  

Time is not the only big difference in honoring Passover, especially when it comes to using food in the celebration of a holiday. During Passover, the importance of food is at a very high level. Within the local Jewish communities and individual Jewish faith families, kosher Passover foods are symbolic in nature. They are used in the celebration of ancient, rich traditions and in a rededication to one’s personal faith.   

The importance of Passover foods has definitely not changed much at all since the beginning, so very long ago. However, for the time I have been involved at the Co-op, kosher foods retailing has changed quite a bit. I would say that early in my “Passover food retailing” career, planning for Passover was much easier than today.  Back then, we had at least four different suppliers or distributors, who all promoted a wide variety of kosher foods for Passover.  With such support to choose from, I could put together a very good selection of name-brand, kosher products for Passover, and I was able to offer a good sale for our Jewish community shoppers.  

Fast forward to today. After considerable food-industry consolidation, the Co-op has only one kosher foods supplier that still services this region.  (On the other hand, if we were located a relatively short distance away in Boston, that number would be much higher due to the greater Jewish consumer population.)  Thankfully, our one kosher foods supplier is also the primary national natural/specialty food distributor we use. As such, this supplier works directly with a national group of cooperative food retailers, referred to as National Co+op Grocers (NCG). The Co-op Food Stores is fortunate enough to be the second-largest member of NCG in terms of retail sales. The combined buying power of 150+ co-ops across the country allows our co-op to access a good core grouping of Passover kosher foods and goods each year.  

I am grateful for the experience of working all these years for the Co-op, and especially for serving its customers. I’m continuing a food retailers’ long-standing tradition of helping to satisfy our customers’ special food needs—one holiday at a time!   

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Ed Howes

Ed Howes is a long-time Co-op merchandiser and a member of the Co-op Board of Directors.

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