News Updates: Meat Maven, Bimbo Bakery, Seasons Kosher

Written by Gabe Aaronson on . Posted in Food/Dining

Meat Maven at Moti's Market

On Nov. 11, Meat Maven took over management of the meat department at Moti’s Market in Rockville, Maryland. According to Gideon Sasson, the owner of Moti’s Market, and Shalom Rubashkin, a regional director for Meat Maven, this new partnership means more kosher meat options for consumers at lower prices.

 

(Shalom Rubashkin should not be confused with his uncle Sholom Rubashkin, the former CEO of Agriprocessors who was convicted of financial fraud in 2008 and whose sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump in 2017. The nephew requested that if his uncle’s legal history was to be mentioned in this article, it be accompanied by the caveat that “many legal experts considered Sholom Rubashkin’s conviction and sentencing a miscarriage of justice.”)

Meat Maven is the sister company of Tevya’s Ranch. Tevya’s was launched in 2008 by members of the Rubashkin family; it is located in Uruguay where large grassland areas are conducive to raising grassfed beef and government regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. Tevya’s products feature heavily in Meat Maven locations.

Meat Maven now operates kosher meat counters for nine supermarkets on the East Coast, said Shalom Rubashkin. “More supermarkets are adopting a concessions model these days,” he said, where the market brings outside vendors to run its bakery, sushi, meat, or other departments.

Although Moti’s meat department is now managed by Meat Maven, the transition for customers was seamless, said Sasson.

“Meat Maven kept all of the existing meat department staff ... all purchases are made at the checkout in Moti’s Market, and the same return policies are in effect,” he said.

The new arrangement benefits everyone, according to Sasson: Meat Maven now receives an agreed-upon portion of all meat sales; Moti’s no longer has the headache of managing a meat operation; and the portion paid to Meat Maven is slightly less than the overhead cost of running the meat department.

He said that the biggest differences customers will notice is the Meat Maven branding, more high-quality meat options, and the lower prices on nearly all meat products. According to the store’s Dec. 5 circular, chicken cutlets cost $4.99/lb, ground beef costs $4.99/lb, pasture-raised brisket costs $7.99/lb, and black angus London broil costs $8.99/lb.

Customers now have a broader range of grassfed and non-grassfed meat options at a price that’s “not just lower, but significantly lower than before,” said Rubashkin.

How can prices go down for everyone involved? By squeezing the middlemen. Since Meat Maven is owned by the same people as Tevya’s Ranch (“vertical integration” as it’s called by business school wonks), there is no middleman taking a cut between the cattle rancher and the customer. For non-Tevya’s products such as poultry and bone-in-meat products, which per USDA regulations cannot be imported, Meat Maven can negotiate a lower price with kosher meat distributors.

“Before, Moti’s had the purchasing power of just one supermarket. But Meat Maven has the purchasing power of nine supermarkets,” Rubashkin explained.

What are the new options for consumers? Sasson listed them off: 100 percent grassfed beef, grain-finished beef (where the animal is fed grain for the last 90 days of life to increase fat and marbling), black angus beef (a higher quality breed of cattle), USDA organic grassfed beef, and bone-in-meat products such as ribeye steak. For consumers unfamiliar with these choices and how to prepare them, Sasson said Meat Maven has brochures at the counter explaining all the options. Meat Maven also has oven-ready meat options, “and every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. we have free tastings of our meat products,” he said. The response from the community has been largely positive according to Sasson and Facebook posts and likes. “I was there yesterday. Everything looks fantastic including the lower prices,” said one Facebook user from Potomac. Another Facebook user from Silver Spring is less pleased with the choices: “Those cuts of beef that did so well in the slow cooker for Shabbat are gone and the butcher told me he no longer had control of how the meat is cut.”

Bimbo Bakery Drops Kosher Certification on Some Products

On November 28, the Rabbinical Council of America posted on Facebook that international baked goods manufacturer Bimbo Bakery — which owns such brands as Entenmann’s, Thomas’, Arnold, and Stroehmann — has dropped kosher certification for most of its bread products. On Dec. 9, however, the Jewish Press clarified which product lines will retain their kosher certification, citing a representative from Bimbo Bakeries USA, the firm’s U.S. subsidiary. According to this representative, Thomas’, Entenmann’s, Arnold Rye Bread, Levy’s Rye Bread, and various unnamed private labels are staying kosher.

According to Bimbo Bakery officials, the reason for removing kosher certification is “to enable more efficient operations,” reported the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS). Bimbo Bakery operates over 60 bakeries employing 22,000 people and bringing in over $100 million in annual sales, according to the company’s website. Rabbi Daniel Senter, administrator for the Kof-K kosher agency, told JNS that Bimbo Bakery’s decision may have been driven by a desire for more flexibility as to which of their bakeries make their various products.

Seasons Sells Seven Stores

According to court documents, Seasons filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 16, citing debts of roughly $42 million. On Dec. 17, Seasons Kosher CEO Mayer Gold told Kol HaBirah the company has found two buyers for seven of their eight locations.

Gold said one buyer bought the Seasons in Baltimore, and another bought the Seasons locations in Lawrence, Inwood, Queens, Scarsdale, New York and in Lakewood and Clifton, New Jersey. Gold declined to give the names of the buyers; he said to refer to the publicly available court documents instead.

All of these stores will stay open, said Gold, adding that his overarching goal was to “keep the company together as much as possible, lose the least number of jobs, and keep stores open to continue serving the community.”

Court documents indicate that SSNS Express LLC won the bid to buy the Lawrence, Inwood, Queens, Scarsdale, and Lakewood locations for $17 million. (Clifton wasn’t initially included in this sale but was added later, according to Gold.) Motions filed by several debtors suggest SSNS Express LLC is newly-formed company with no operational history. Joseph Bistritzky, who signed court documents on behalf of SSNS Express, is listed by Bloomberg News as CEO of the Maramont Corporation, which “operates as a food service company that prepares, assembles, and delivers prepackaged meals to institutional clients.” At the time of publishing, no court documents identifying the Baltimore buyer were available.

And what of the Manhattan location? “Whoever bought the companies, it clearly didn’t fit into their model,” Gold said, adding that the Manhattan store is “a much smaller space, primarily takeout — meat and sushi.” Gold said they are trying to place the Manhattan store employees at other Seasons locations if possible.

By Gabe Aaronson


 

Gabe Aaronson does IT project management for the Defense Health Agency and public policy and communications consulting for various clients. He is a special correspondent for Kol HaBirah, and lives in the Kemp Mill community in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.