It’s easy to tell whether or not a whole fish is kosher: Just look for scales and fins. But if you’re looking for the convenience of a boneless fillet or a steak, those telltale signs may not be there to help identify the species. Even if there’s no question about the fish itself, not knowing how or where it was processed may leave room for doubt about its kosher status.
Now, thanks to ShopRite supermarkets and OK Kosher Certification, spotting a kosher fillet is as simple as looking for the blue-and-white “ShopRite Kosher” label on the package. The ShopRite name guarantees freshness and quality, and the OK Fish symbol certifies it’s been handled in accordance with kashruth laws.
With 200 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware, ShopRite’s market area is home to more kosher households than any other region of the United States.
ShopRite supermarkets carry literally thousands of kosher products, including more than 1,000 foods, drinks, snacks, condiments and household goods such as cleansers under the ShopRite brand. Two years ago, the “ShopRite Kosher” line of products made its debut with challah and challah rolls for Rosh Hashanah. Matzot joined the brand the following Passover, followed by chicken broth, glatt all-beef franks and horseradish.
Last fall, ShopRite began selling packaged fresh fish under the “ShopRite Kosher” label for the benefit of kosher customers who lack access to a store with full-service kosher fish, meat and deli departments, said Joe Sheridan, executive vice president of Wakefern Food Corp., ShopRite’s marketing and distribution arm.
“We recognized an opportunity to provide many of our kosher customers something that most of our other customers take for granted – fresh fish – because not every store is equipped to satisfy their specific needs,” Sheridan said.
ShopRite offers three varieties of pre-packaged, fresh (not frozen) certified kosher fish each week: tilapia fillets, salmon fillets and salmon steaks, all cut and wrapped under in-house kosher supervision. Around holidays and during special promotions, kosher tuna, whole trout and whole tilapia also are available.
“We can conceivably offer any fish that is considered kosher,” said Sheridan, noting that ShopRite is the nation’s only supermarket that owns and operates its own fish processing facility.
That fact, plus the experience in selling kosher fish, made it simple to add pre-packaged and cut kosher fish to ShopRite’s inventory. For guidance on planning and set-up, the company turned to OK Kosher Certification – which also certifies Wakefern’s main kosher fish supplier – to ensure compliance with proper guidelines and procedures.
At the company’s fishery, separate knives and cutting boards are used exclusively for kosher processing; to avoid mix-ups, the kosher knives (and sharpening steel) are the only ones with blue handles instead of white, and are locked away when not being used to cut kosher fish.
Each package of kosher fish is marked with the “ShopRite Kosher” label on the front, and a second is used as a seal where the plastic wrap is folded underneath. As an added reassurance, fillets are packaged with a small piece of skin intact, as evidence that the fish had scales. “That’s a very simple way we can help increase the comfort level of a discerning kosher customer, who may have some concern about buying a piece of cleaned fish,” Sheridan said.
Nutley, New Jersey, ShopRite owner Vincent LoCurcio considers ShopRite Kosher fresh fish a benefit to his kosher customers.
“From our perspective, it’s about service. Offering a wide variety of kosher products is an extension of ShopRite’s neighborhood grocer philosophy: We’re committed to trying to meet the needs of all our neighbors,” he said.
“And, from our kosher customers’ perspective, the ShopRite Kosher brand is a matter of trust,” LoCurcio added. “I believe they appreciate how seriously we take our obligation to helping them meet their obligations.”