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End near for Israel’s non-Kosher supermarket chain?

The sudden revelation on Israeli television channels that “a certain billionaire” is about to complete a buyout of the Tiv-Taam non-kosher supermarket chain is certain to bring smiles to the country’s religious community; and frowns – even tears – to the secular community. Tiv Taam, which came into the being in the spring of 2002, has become a popular alternative to other food chains which are kosher and definitely closed on the Jewish Sabbath and religious holidays.

Reported amount of the buyout is $100 million.

Tiv TaamTiv Taam, which has stores in all major cities, has become very popular with many segments of the population, particularly those from the former Soviet Union and with foreign diplomats and relocated foreign workers. In fact, Tiv Taam’s entry into Israel’s consumer market has resulted in lost revenues for many established supermarket chains, and even resulted in some branches actually closing (Kosmos in Kibbutz Gaash is a good example).

Tiv Taam’s popularity has been marred by scandal, however, as its poultry products, including eggs were found to contain high levels of bacteria and unfit for human consumption. Television news and consumer protection programs, including the popular Kolbotek program on Channel 2, did extensive investigations and found that the store chain’s poultry was being labeled with false dates, way beyond the accepted time limit for marketing fresh produce. Interviews with store employees revealed that the meat was being soaked in a mixture of vinegar and water to eliminate any bad odors; a sure tale indication of spoilage.

Tiv Taam ended the year 2006 with a 27 million dollar loss, largely due to the bad T.V. publicity and other problems. Despite its efforts to recover, including offering special discounts and making internal store changes, the food chain which offered what many considered to be the most complete non-kosher food selection ever available in the Jewish State is rumored to undergo a 180 degree transformation into a chain offering only kosher food products. What this means to all the chain’s enthusiastic patrons is that not only will shrimp and other sea foods, pork products and the like will no longer be available, it will no longer be possible to shop there on Saturdays and during Jewish festivals such as Pesach. Passover is unique, as a full range of ‘Hametz’, or not kosher for Passover food products (especially breads) were readily available during the 7 day festival.

The chains’ owners paid considerable fines through the years for its marketing practices, including being open on Shabbat; but this was simply considered as a “cost of doing business”.

The new changes, when brought into effect, will bring home the reality of trying to do an unorthodox style of business in a country where the Orthodox Jewish establishment still maintains a lot of clout. This is particularly true if this “certain billionaire” purchaser just happens to be religious.

Despite this revelation, the experience of the past several years will not bring the situation back to what it was before Tiv Taam came into being as many smaller food stores were already open on Saturdays, and large gas station chains have recently opened food convenience stores within their stations, most of them open on the ‘weekends’,

Still, Tiv Taam has been a unique experiment, whose marketing strategies are bound to remain in the minds of the country’s majority secular public for years to come.

1 Comment

  1. I for one will really miss the “Chazer Store”. It is definitely a cut above most of the other chain stores – despite the problem with the poultry.

    Going to the ‘super’ should be an enjoyable experience and not a necessary evil as most other stores are.

    Maybe the chain’s new owner will take these words to heart.

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