It was a somewhat smaller but increasingly exuberant experience at Kosherfest 2021, the two day expo returning to Secaucus after a one year hiatus brought on by the pandemic.

It was hard not to notice the influence of COVID on the annual business to business trade show, being held on November 9th and 10th at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.

A pair of large signs set up at the exhibit hall’s entrance listed the show’s “All Secure Standards,” which including warnings not to hug or shake hands and discussed enhanced cleaning measures and potential contact tracing, should the need arise. While signs were posted advising exhibitors and attendees that face masks were strongly encouraged, as per CDC guidance, few were on display as the show unfolded.

There was no doubt that there was more open space on the Kosherfest floor than in previous years and there were multiple booths bearing the names of exhibitors whose plans to attend Kosherfest were torpedoed by COVID.

But the show’s key buyer lounge area was busy and attendees seemed enthusiastic as they made their way up and down the aisles, inquiring about products, exchanging information and, of course, tasting items from Promised Land Beverage Company’s jalapeno lime soda to Deutsche Baker’s kosher for Passover hamburger buns, made out of teff.

Entrepreneurial spirit and creativity were both evident at Kosherfest and Yitzchak Saftlas, who was recording segments for his Mind Your Own Business WOR radio show at Kosherfest, said that he was encouraged by the show’s turnout.

“Whether the show is a little quieter than it was in past years or is just coming off of COVID or whatever it is, the opportunities are everywhere,” Saftlas told VIN News. “There is a lot of traffic here and things are looking great, but one of the most important rules in business is just showing up, because there is tremendous opportunity out there.”

One product that drew considerable attention was an idea that came about through COVID – Aqua e Grano’s sourdough pizzas which were being produced fresh on the spot at Kosherfest.

Owner Frederick Bijou said that he had been working in various capacities in the restaurant industry when the pandemic hit, and he used his quarantine time to experiment with sourdough. Bijou’s baking was so successful that he decided to use sourdough pizza to bring family and friends together, holding his first event about a year ago at an aunt’s house.

“We got great feedback and from there we went full scale, doing events everywhere and anywhere – on a balcony in Manhattan and for a summer camp in the middle of a forest,” said Bijou. “It is really about bringing the open concept to you, wherever you are, making the dough fresh on the spot, wherever you are.”

Aqua e Grano’s eight pizza varieties include a fall harvest version with Brussels sprouts, leeks, caramelized onion and brie, and while they are currently only available at events, 12 inch frozen versions are expected to start appearing in Brooklyn stores this January.

Kosherfest founder and co-producer Menachem Lubinsky was pleased with the turnout from both exhibitors and attendees.

“I think it reflects the sentiments of everyone that after two years, people are happy to be back in person,” said Lubinsky. “The show is beyond expectations, especially in this environment when people thought that it wouldn’t take place.”

Despite the hardships of COVID and ongoing supply chain issues that have had prices skyrocketing across the board, new products are continuing to emerge and the kosher food business remains on an upward trajectory, observed Lubinsky.

“We are seeing the growth of independent kosher supermarkets all over the country and I think that Kosherfest is a mirror of what we are seeing in the industry as a whole,” said Lubinsky. “This is a nice resurgence that sets the stage for something very big next year.”