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Manischewitz hopes its rebrand will make kosher food cool

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What makes this Passover different from all other Passovers? It may be the box of matzoh on your kitchen table.

Manischewitz, the 136-year-old Kosher food brand synonymous with Passover, has changed its look in a bid for new customers, especially the culturally curious. The new tangerine packaging and arched logo is a full reimagining of a line of foods often consumed during the eight days a year when Jews commemorate their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt.

The rebrand is meant to broaden its appeal to new generations, especially those who enjoy trying different cuisines, said Shani Seidman, chief marketing officer of Manischewitz’s parent company, Kayco. “We have authentically Jewish food, and we feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to invite everyone to come and explore the kosher aisle,” she said. It “should be a culinary destination.”

The rollout comes just in time for Passover, which begins the evening of April 22, when many households abstain from leavened bread and turn to one of the company’s biggest products: matzoh. Shoppers will now also find Manischewitz’s gefilte fish, egg noodles and macaroons encased in new packaging adorned with Hebrew-inspired accents, illustrated characters and hues of reds, oranges, yellows and browns. And there are new products in the works: from cheeky merch to frozen matzoh balls and knishes.

(Manischewitz is not to be confused with Manischewitz Wines, which is a separate company.)

Privately held Kayco partnered with JKR Global, the agency behind the branding of Dunkin’, Burger King, Uber and Fanta. The creative team leaned into the brand’s Jewish roots while attempting to appeal to an audience that is “much more open to all different types of food,” said Lisa Smith, global executive creative director at JKR. “So, why not celebrate a food that is so beloved by so many and then amplify it? It’s a huge growth moment and opportunity.”

JKR conducted research among a range of consumers, from those who keep Kosher to those who are more “food curious,” Smith said, and considered designs that could be considered timeless.

“We don’t try to be trendy for trendy’s sake,” she said. Instead, they focus on capturing the essence of a brand, which came to “crave-ability, comforting, inviting and welcoming … and just amplifying them.”

The rebrand, which was three years in the making, is not without risk, especially for products that have looked the same for decades. It requires a delicate balance of avoiding “antagonizing your legacy market … and yet doing something modern enough to catch the eye of the new market,” said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Consumers could have trouble finding the product (though this may be less of an issue for Manischewitz because most supermarkets don’t have a huge selection of Kosher items) or think the quality of the product has changed, Kahn said.

“If the packaging is that different, you do run that risk. I don’t know if that will happen in this case or not, but there are examples of that.” Tropicana’s 2009 rebrand is the textbook example. The box of orange juice was so unrecognizable that it led to a 20 percent drop in sales and a $30 million loss.

But Manischewitz has to play the long game, said Jonathan Levav, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. It has a smaller loyal customer base, many of whom are aging. “Old people buy fewer things and have a pesky habit of disappearing,” he said. “And once they’re gone, you don’t want the brand to die with them.”

Brands need to adapt as the market changes, Levav said, finding ways to excite and entice customers into buying the product. It’s one of the reasons Manischewitz is leaning into expanding its frozen food and snack offerings (now under the banner Mani’z).

“The goal here is to be a 365-day-a-year brand,” Seidman said.

Another way to sustain the brand is to convince consumers that it belongs alongside other cuisines like Indian, Chinese and Mexican food, Kahn said. Just like many American families do “Taco Tuesdays,” Seidman envisions a “Matzoh Ball Mondays” for “a consumer who doesn’t necessarily need to only buy foods that they’re used to.”

Meanwhile, Manischewitz doesn’t want to play down its heritage. The brand is selling T-shirts featuring puns and Yiddishisms like “Man I Shvitz” and a tote bag that reads “Schlep” alongside the brand’s logo.

“We didn’t want to be more mainstream so the mainstream consumer would like us,” she said. “We want to be authentically ourselves so that the mainstream consumer will say: ‘I want to try that.’”



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