‘Kosher Experience’ is coming to a Fry’s near you

Daniella Lerma, Frys’ multicultural specialist, travels to California four or five times a year. She likes going to the Ralphs grocery store in La Jolla, which houses one of the largest kosher sections of the Krogers range (the parent company of Frys and Ralphs), she said.

As you enter, there is a kosher bakery, kosher deli, and kosher takeout meals. Half of the store is dedicated to kosher products, he said. This was my inspiration. I thought, how do we get this back to Arizona?

Frys Food Stores’ response was to launch Kosher Experience sections in three stores in Phoenix and Scottsdale. The greatest Kosher experience is inside Frys Marketplace at 4707 E. Shea Blvd. in Phoenix. The area contains several divided aisles as well as frozen food crates marked with the word kosher in blue lettering. Lerma hopes to expand these sections to Chandler and Tucson stores in the near future.

I grew up in a Hispanic household, so learning the kosher side of the business has been a lot of fun and I love it,” Lerma said.

He said there is an associate at the Shea Blvd. store, Tom Keppler, who is very dedicated and works with the distributor to keep the shelves in the kosher section stocked and sorted, as well as connect with customers.

Without his passion, we would not have been able to continue filming, said Lerma. He had a list of people who had ordered from him for Passover and Tom made sure he was there when they came to pick up their order.

He said the week before Passover, people kept mentioning they came from all over the state to this store. It’s amazing, Lerma said. I’ve been trying to get feedback to see what we can do in their areas next year so they don’t have to travel to Scottsdale to get the products.

Lerma is planning meetings with rabbis throughout the Great Phoenix area to help determine the best items to bring for the community and what is missing. She also reached out to Robyn Schwager, community impact manager at Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona in Tucson.

I personally advocate more kosher food and more variety (in Tucson). I think a lot of people are too, Schwager said. But he also noted that kosher food is more expensive and the cost can be prohibitive for some people.

Some local rabbis visited the Frys on Shea Blvd. and pointed out to Lerma all the products located throughout the store with symbols on the packaging identifying the item as kosher. They explained that not all kosher products come from a strictly kosher manufacturer.

On the other hand, Schwager, who keeps kosher and is now vegan, appreciates it when a store carries items made only by kosher manufacturers.

When I ate meat, a store would come in packets of cold cuts, and I’d buy 10 or 12 packets at a time, to get me through, she said.

Schwager also suggested that Frys take some of their kosher food dollars and shop for more diverse produce. You don’t need 10 canned gefilte fish varieties from five different manufacturers, she said. Instead, take some of that money and buy kosher ketchup, that way you don’t have to score all that gefilte fish at the end of the season.

Lerma keeps a list of items customers ask for each day yogurt, whipped cream and milk is the biggest, she said, and is working on adding more space to these items.

Schwager said social media is a great tool for announcing new kosher products in stock.

My family loves frozen gefilte fish. I saw a shop posted that they had a few and went to buy what I needed, she said. When she got home, she posted her purchase in her Facebook group. The next day, people came back and everything was gone.

Word travels very fast down here on all social media when it comes to kosher.

To build a variety of products, Lerma is building relationships with many kosher food vendors such as Tuscanini and Heaven & Earth. One of the representatives she works with is Matt Kobzeff, VP of Western Sales at Kedem Food Products / Royal Wine Corporation. Kedem is one of the brands distributed by Kayco, the leading distributor of kosher foods in the United States.

Kosher wine at Frys

Kosher wine and spirits on display at Frys Marketplace.

Kobzeff introduced Lerma to the Herzog family, which owns and operates Royal Wine Corp., who began the journey of bringing kosher wine into the shop.

They were very welcoming and positive about our whole experience, Lerma said. They let us try a couple of their wines they make and told us the story behind some of the artwork they put on the bottle.

These wines are displayed on an end cap (a retail term for display area at the end of an aisle) marked Kosher Wine & Spirits and she is working to bring the kosher wine to other Frys locations.

Lerma is also partnering with other stores to donate some of their kosher products to the Arizona Kosher Pantry, the only kosher food pantry in the Southwest.

We have five stores that have larger kosher sections, so we want to build something with them to start donating, she said. Store managers are on board; we just need to work on how we’re going to separate the product.

On July 20, Lerma will accompany a group of Frys associates to volunteer at the pantry.

We will start with a group of 10 and go over there to volunteer. I’m excited, she said.

After the shop renovation, you will be able to add a new assortment of products to the section.

We are working with the store and have standards where they comply with the section and only put our true kosher product there, she said. They (our customers) trust. JN extension

For more information, visit frysfood.com.

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