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Growing Israeli frozen food industry: it's a lot more than kosher cooking.

Growing Israeli Frozen Food Industry: It's a Lot More than Kosher Cooking

Producers increasingly look for export markets to absorb rising tonnage of added value fare ranging from vegetable mixes to orange juice to pizza.

As the Israeli frozen food industry enters the 1990s, it appears to have taken a quantum leap forward. Basically, this is because producers have hitched their wagons to technical innovation coupled with the quality imprimatur of their products. With capacities building, the development of export markets is being honed more than ever.

While there are millions of Jewish consumers in the United States and Europe, many of whom conform to strict religious dietary laws, Israeli producers do not wish to target their products only to a limited ethnic minority. It is their intention to reach the consumer at large.

Sunfrost, probably the leading frozen food company in the Jewish state, epitomizes this trend. And Eli Davidai, vice president of marketing, is typical of the new breed of manager who brings an international prespective to the business.

With sales of $92 million last year --over 50% in exports, of which 46% was in private label -- it has placed particular emphasis on vegetable mixes and ethnic dishes. Chinese and Japanese vegetable combinations have recently been introduced to both home and overseas markets. Mixes with Middle Eastern orientations are now in the works.

For a retail chain in the United Kingdom, Sunfrost is supplying a vegetable mix based on a blanched red pepper which Davidai claims is the only one of its type on the world market. Meanwhile, Balkan mix (or Lecho) has established a niche for itself, while research and development is almost concluded on a Mexican blend. Davidai says that his is the only company to produce frozen organic corn in Israel, and the demand for it is growing rapidly. Soup sales remain high, with corn, minestrone and cauliflower recipes now in distribution. In addition, the company packs Italian minestrone, broccoli, mushroom and onion soup.

Some 24 new products were launched in 1989, and Sunfrost's growth was on the order of 7%. This year the company expects to export 2,000 tons of frozen carrots sourced in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the Negev. Some $2.5 million is likely to be earned from sales primarily made in Japan, Australia, North America and Europe.

In other business, Sunfrost is buying from Osem the shares of the Madaanot frozen pastries company. The concern was originally started up as a joint venture by the Elite Co., Sunfrost and Osem, with Elite previously yielding its stake. Sales in 1989 were in the area of $8 million.

Gat Canneries

Gat Canneries of Givat Hayim, in the current growing year, has processed some 180,000 tons of citrus. This represents the highest figure in its history -- well ahead of the previous record of 110,000 tons. Some 75% of the citrus juices it packs for the retail and institutional trade is in frozen form, and 60% of that is bulk.

Gaddi Gil and Uri Pollack, respectively managing director and consultant, say, however, that there has been a rapid rise in the cost of raw material since the freeze-related crop failure in Florida last December.

Gat's frozen juices go to Germany, France, Sweden and England, and the firm is a major packer of private label for the UK. It still regards the EEC market as having the greatest potential, since it is close geographically and has better understood market requirements. With Israel's own shimouti orange, which has a characteristic flavor, Gat feels it holds a distinct advantage over competitors.

Established in 1942 by Kibbutz Givat Hayim, Gat boasts 48 years of growth for its award-winning line of juices and concentrates, as well as consummate experience in export markets, which account for 90% of its total volume. Its FMC juice extractors are capable of handling up to 25,000 pieces of fruit an hour.

The company recently launched retail juices in four-packs, since single packs tend to get lost in frozen food cabinets if they are not properly merchandised. The foursomes are going to Germany, Denmark and the UK. Tropical fruit juice mixes are showing a considerable upturn and a nine-fruit juice mix, known as Multi Vitamin Saft, has been introduced to the Migros chain in Switzerland. Meanwhile, a Caribbean juice has been placed on the Danish market.


Tivall of Kibbutz Lochamel Hagetaot now serves a global market with its frozen vegetarian dishes derived from specially structured soy protein flour and high-vitality wheat gluten combined with 100% pure vegetable oil. The range includes imitation sausage, burgers, strudel, and schnitzel as well as vegetable patties and nuggets.

Beyond this range, Tivall produces vegetable lasagna and, under private label, vegetarian burgers and grills for Tesco -- Britain's largest supermarket operator. The company is also supplying J. Sainsbury in the UK, and has seven items going to Dutch retailer Albert Heijn. In addition, it exports to Switzerland and Sweden (range has penetrated 40% of the food chain stores in the latter country), and is widely represented in France and Germany.

Tivall has also developed low fat cheeses. And all its products claim to be high in proteins and polyunsaturates, rich in vitamins and minerals and free from cholesterol, preservatives and MSG.

Some 55% of Israelis reportedly eat Tivall products on a regular basis, and 25% are heavy consumers. Offerings are said to have wide appeal among children too. So Tivall isn't directing its efforts just to the vegetarian market, but believes it has a far wider franchise with health-conscious customers.

The latest news at the company is its acquired 60% interest in the production plant of Kibbutz Eilon. There it intends to produce surimi products made from imported Alaska pollock. The analogues will include shrimp, breaded crab legs and calamari rings.

Israelis who are precluded by religious dietary laws from eating certain seafoods and shellfish will be able to taste the closest to the real thing now, and the joke is that for the first time in its history the Tel Aviv Hilton will be serving shrimp cocktail.

Pri Ha'emek

Pri Ha'emek, now a privately owned company, turns out a wide range of frozen vegetables, concentrated sweetened drinks, high cloud concentrates, juices and mixed cocktail bases for retail and institutional markets. Fruit concentrates and purees are also available, with 33% of its production in frozen form.

Total output is 31,000 tons of citrus, 30,000 tons of tomatoes, 17,000 tons of corn and 3,000 tons of carrots, with exports going to the United States, UK, continental Europe, Japan and Australia. Pri Ha'emek boasts one of Israel's most advanced fruit and vegetable processing plants, situated near Nazareth in the northern part of the Jezreel valley, from which it draws most of its raw materials.

Corn is its biggest volume line in frozen. And just one month ago the company added canned corn. Managing Director Alex Ferling told Quick Frozen Foods International that it packs private label frozen corn for leading supermarket chains in the UK and has invested some $1 million in technology and machinery over the past two years to bring plant facilities to the highest international standard.

Hod Lavan

Hod Lavan is a major processor of upscale further-processed and kosher turkey, chicken and goose products, with exports going widely to the USA and EEC. The range includes: turkey roll, smoked goose breast, smoked breast of goose and turkey, turkey pastrami, turkey salami, turkey schnitzel with added fiber rolled in oat kernels, battered and breaded turkey breast cutlets, and lightly breaded and fried chicken or turkey nuggets.

Zohar Reuveni, vice president of research and technology, says some 120 items are produced, counting all sizes and varieties. Output is 50% frozen and 50% chilled, and the healthy eating trend has been followed with products in the low calorie and reduced cholesterol categories. Some 30-40% of its business is in export trade. A $5 million contract was recently signed with the Crown Co., which sells kosher foods in America under its own brand name.

Considerable emphasis is placed on innovation. Between five and ten new products are launched each year, for both domestic and external markets. It also packs for a major supermarket chain in the USA, and sells to buyers in Switzerland, Germany, France and Scandinavia. Meanwhile, Hod Lavan is considering setting up a factory to supply the Japanese market.

Tiv Tirat Tsvi

Akiva Pollak, managing director of Tiv Tirat Tsvi, says that his is the only factory of its type in the world that belongs to a religious kibbutz. The company's range encompass 15 different varieties of salami, sausages, smoked meat, turkey, beef and chicken, with emphasis on roasted turkey breast. It air-ships both frozen and chilled products to the UK and USA.

Basically, exports go 50/50 to Europe and North America, but quantities also are sent to South Africa and Japan, which are developing markets. While products go primarily to the kosher sections of stores, they are not specifically directed there since the firm considers its offerings to be of universal appeal.

The plant's output is some 2,000 tons per year, and the raw material is sourced from local slaughter-houses of USDA standard which are strictly kashrut. There is an ongoing program of product development covering quality enhancement, innovation and packaging; six people are employed in research and development and quality control, and there are also seven butchers on the job.


The Deco frozen food plant at Sederot, commissioned six years ago at a cost of $3.5 million, incorporates the latest in technology and machinery. Its range cover pizzas of several descriptions including baguette, croissants and a local line called rogelach. Output is some 700 tons a year, of which 70% is pizza and 30% is croissants. About 7% of Deco's production goes to export and is marketed under the Yarden brand, while it also produces private label pizza for the USA.

Currently Deco is looking into producing ethnic pizza varieties for overseas markets, which will incorporate Middle Eastern-style toppings with spices. The company is also looking closely at Mexican-style pizza. There are 23 people working in the plant and Mr. Rapaportet, who heads up the operation, believes there is considerable potential for export both to the UK and USA in line with the development in ethnic dishes.


Milosun has a modern and sophisticated food processing plant situated in Galilee. It is owned and operated by the kibbutz farms of the region and has established a reputation for the quality of its poultry range. The plant has fully-automated production lines, designed and built to USDA and EEC standards.

The company exports primarily under the Mili label and its range of frozen products includes breaded and fried items, flame broiled burgers, pies of many descriptions and a range of chicken and turkey recipe dishes in specially formulated sauces. The range of products is packed in aluminum trays, boil-in-bag pouches and laminated cartons. On the institutional side the company makes available 6-8 kg units of fried and broiled portions as well as poultry rolls.

PHOTO : Eli Davidai, Sunfrost vice president of marketing, pauses to take a phone call from a customer during the QFFI interview at his office.

PHOTO : Gat Canneries consultant Uri Pollak (left) and Gaddi Gil, managing director, display a range of products turned out by the Givat Hayim-based frozen juice packer.
COPYRIGHT 1990 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Author:Abrahams, Ray
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:First European packaging conference attracts 34 frozen food companies.
Next Article:Consolidation continues in Denmark as frozen food firms prepare for 1992.

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