Hearty feasts such as Passover can pose a real problem for committed gluten-free dieters. Since such meals are comprised of many elements and several courses, creating a gluten-free Passover can be both time-consuming and painstaking. It remains true that the recent increase in awareness of celiac disease has led to more gluten-free products on supermarket shelves, but the majority of such fare has no place on the Passover table. Thankfully, companies like Osem occasionally combine their kosher background with celiac awareness to create Passover cakes that are both delicious and gluten-free.
About Osem Kosher Foods
Kobi Afek is the Director of Marketing for Osem kosher foods. Osem represents a titanic name in the Israeli food industry, and is as well the largest exporter of kosher goods into the United States. This label represents a trusted household name for kosher products that include everything from seasonings, bouillon cubes, noodles, coffee and, most importantly, a small selection of gluten-free Passover cakes. If you're looking to make a gluten-free Passover slightly easier, Osem's gluten-free walnut, marble, pound, and other select Passover cakes can allow you to mark at least one item off your checklist.
Gluten-Free at Passover: Interview with Kobi Afek of Osem
Passover Specific Products
LovetoKnow (LTK): Osem is considered to be the leading exporter of Passover products within the American food market, and specific products within the line, such as cakes, are now gluten-free. Is there a large or emerging market for gluten-free Passover products, or is there an alternate reason behind the absence of gluten in these cakes?
Kobi Afek (KA): The main reason for absence of gluten in our cakes is Passover. All Osem cakes that are Kosher-for-Passover are gluten free. During Passover, Jewish people are not allowed to eat any kind of leaven. In order to bake kosher-for-Passover cakes we had to take out the wheat flour from the recipe. The biggest challenge for us was to keep it tasty just like regular cakes.
As a manufacturer of some gluten-free products we realized that there is an emerging market for gluten free Passover products. In the past few years, we have noticed a growth in demand for Passover gluten free products. Part of the growth can be explained by the fact that Passover time is an opportunity for consumers with gluten allergies to stock their pantries. The other part can be explained by health conscious consumers who are looking for quality and tasty foods without gluten.
LTK: Not all of Osem's cakes are gluten-free, but several varieties such as the pound and marble cakes are made without any wheat or gluten. What flour substitutes are used in the place of wheat-based ingredients?
KA: Our line of cakes for Rosh-Hashanah is not gluten free. However, all of our Passover cakes are gluten-free. The line of Osem Passover gluten-free cakes includes: Pound, Marble, Chocolate Chip, Walnut, Chocolate & Chocolate Chip and Chocolate & Coconut cake. The main substitute for flour is potato starch. Right now the only gluten-free products we have for Passover are the cakes.
LTK: Matzah bread is a Passover staple, but many gluten-intolerant individuals must resort to making their own gluten-free versions, as it is difficult to find premade gluten-free matzah in stores. Does Osem currently manufacture or have any future plans to manufacture a type of gluten-free matzah bread?
KA: We currently don't manufacture gluten free matzah but we are considering other gluten-free products for next Passover. We feel that there is a lot to be done in the gluten-free category for Passover.
Products and Purchasing
LTK: Can celiac consumers find gluten-free Osem products in their local supermarkets, or is this product only sold in specialty stores?
KA: Celiac consumers can find Osem kosher-for-Passover gluten-free cakes in almost any supermarket that carries kosher products. Usually you'll find them in the kosher aisle or in the Passover section. Osem products (regular and gluten-free) are being sold in all supermarket chains nationwide like Shoprite, Stop and Shop, Winn-Dixie, Publix, A&P, Pathmark, Albertsons, Kroger, Shaws, Biggs, Ralphs, Safeway, HEB, etc.. In addition, Osem products are sold in all virtually kosher supermarkets around the country.
I do encourage consumers who cannot find Osem products in the kosher aisle to ask the store manager to order them from their distributor.
LTK: Lastly, Osem manufactures far more than Passover related foods. Amongst these are soup bouillon and pasta products. Are any of Osem's non-Passover related foods also gluten-free? Moreover, does Osem have any plans to expand its content of gluten-free products?
KA: Besides Passover cakes in the US we currently don't have any other items that are gluten-free. We are always exploring new opportunities and are looking at this category for possible expansion.
Further Information on Gluten Free Foods from Osem
Dedicated gluten-free dieters who have questions about Osem's product line can consult the official Osem USA site for further information. You can also feel free to encourage Osem's expansion within the category of gluten-free by sending requests and suggestions to the appropriate Osem representative.