An interview with
Mr. Aaron Nutovics,
CEO of Tuv Taam Kosher Products
Browse past the refrigerator section of any kosher grocery store, and you’ll see an eye catching display of rows upon rows of Tuv Taam prepared salads and spreads. The freezer section is likewise bursting with a mouthwatering array of frozen appetizers and prepared dinners. All of this lusciousness is a far cry from Tuv Taam’s humble beginnings, twenty five years ago.
Mr. Aaron Nutovics, proprietor of Tuv Taam, got his inspiration while working in the 47th street diamond district. “Every day for lunch, I had two choices,” he recalls. “I could go to a nearby restaurant, which was expensive and time-consuming, or I could pick something up from the local grocery store on my way to work. But the selections were very limited-maybe a roll with cottage cheese or yogurt. I wanted more variety and convenience.”
Thus the idea for Tuv Taam was born. Mr. Nutovics started his readymade food business with a Kenmore mixer and two employees-himself and his wife. Their first two products were prepared tuna and egg salad. He began peddling his products to local grocery stores.
“When I started, even my family was skeptical,” says Mr. Nutovics. “My in-laws begged me not to go into this business. This was uncharted territory; no one was selling kosher ready-to-eat products to grocery stores. My brothers warned me that I was taking a risk, but they promised their help and support.” Today the brothers are partners in the business.
Mr. Nutovics, a Vizhnitzer Chassid, turned to his Rebbe for advice. “The Vizhnitzer Rebbe asked me if I would still retain my skills from the jewelry business. Would it be difficult for me to return to the diamond industry if the food business did not work out? I assured him that I would not lose my skills. Since the initial investment in the food business was minimal, he encouraged me to go ahead with it.”
Today, Tuv Taam produces a wide-ranging product line-from prepared salads and dips, to gourmet frozen dinners. Their products are sold widely in kosher grocery stores and supermarkets nationwide and are even sold overseas. In addition to the consumer products, Tuv Taam products are also marketed to airlines, hotels, hospitals and nursing homes.
When asked to share more details about the size and volume of the company, though, Mr. Nutovics demurs. “The Gemara says, ‘blessings are found only on hidden things.’ Even my children don’t know exactly how big the company is. I believe in talking less about the business and letting my products speak for themselves.”
And speak for themselves they do. Mr. Nutovics says that at Tuv Taam, quality and customer satisfaction are his chief priorities. “When I was in the jewelry business, if something didn’t turn out exactly right, business owners would often try to sell it anyway. ‘The public will eat anything,’ they’d say. This attitude bothered me to no end. Where is the respect for the customer? I will not sell anything that I would not be proud to serve on my own table.”
Tuv Taam invests a great deal in ensuring that every bite of food is of the finest quality and taste. As an example, Mr. Nutovics points to a state-of-the-art crepe machine, imported from Europe. “I invested thousands of dollars in this machine to make blintzes. However, it turned out that the quality was not as good as the blintzes made by hand. So we went back to doing it the old-fashioned way. Each blintz is fried and rolled individually, by hand.”
Mr. Nathan Dessler, director of marketing, explains: “In the food business, you only have one chance to prove yourself. If the customer doesn’t like your product the first try, they will not buy it anymore. Every item in every package must meet our strict quality standards.”
“Our products have won many awards,” adds Mr. Nutovics. “In blind taste tests conducted by independent laboratories, our products have consistently come out on top.”
Mr. Nutovics and his staff travel to food fairs worldwide to learn the latest in food technology and cuisine. Each new product is carefully tested in Tuv Taam’s research kitchen. Tuv Taam aims to introduce new cuisines and flavors to the Jewish market.
“I call myself the Shalom Bayis department,” Mr. Nutovics says with a smile. “My goal is to ease the job of the balebusta. It’s good for the family to have a hearty, hot meal every night, and to have a beautiful Shabbos table spread with all sorts of delicacies. However, many dishes are complex and time consuming to prepare. That’s where Tuv Taam comes in. We do the sweating here in our kitchens, so the balebusta doesn’t have to.”
Tuv Taam products are supervised carefully to ensure both quality and kashrus. All vegetables used are tasted first to make sure they are fresh. Cheese samples are sent to the in-house lab for inspection. If they don’t meet Tuv Taam’s quality standards, they are sent back to the manufacturer.
As a company with high standards and strict attention to detail, Tuv Taam found a good match in OK Kosher Certification. “The OK began supervising our products fifteen years ago,” says Mr. Nutovics. “We have a great relationship with them. The OK mashgichim are strict and on top of everything that goes on. Every ingredient that comes in is checked and approved by them.”
Tuv Taam’s sparkling clean production floor is completely segregated-with completely separate areas for milk and meat products. All utensils and ingredients for milk and meat are stored separately. There is a mashgiach employed to check vegetables and another who cracks and inspects the thousands of eggs used daily.
“Every market has a higher end and a lower end,” says Mr. Nutovics. “Someone else can always come along and produce a cheaper product. But that’s not our goal at Tuv Taam. We aim to be at the top of the market and will not compromise on taste, freshness or quality, and definitely not on kashrus. Twenty-five years ago, we were the first to enter the Kosher market, and that’s where we want to stay; where the layman, the chef, and the rabbi all feel completely comfortable with our products.”