Jeffrey Striks has taken a bite of the American kosher food market: sports stadiums.
He got his start seven years ago, offering kosher food at concession stands at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium in New York. Business is so good that he's expanded his company, Strikly Kosher, and now operates kosher stands at Giants Stadium and Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey, Nassau Coliseum in Long Island and the Yankees' minor league ball park in Staten Island.
His core market is the most observant Jews who follow the laws of kashrut, which restricts what food can be eaten and how it is prepared.
But he's also attracting customers who aren't Jewish and perceive that kosher food is healthier. They are buying his knishes, chicken nuggets and "knockwurst" - not the traditional German sausage but a chicken product designed to look like a hot dog.
"Everyone associates kosher with cleanliness," said Striks, 49, a native of the New York borough of Queens.
Since typical stadium fare is hot dogs, selling kosher food at sports venues is a logical market, said Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior research analyst at Mintel, a market research firm in Chicago that estimates the American kosher food market to be $40-billion.
Others are capitalizing on the growing kosher market in stadiums. Striks plans to move outside the New York area, and a competitor, Kosher Sports Inc., has moved into stadiums in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Both companies have menus that are glatt kosher, a stricter designation that usually applies to meat. The most observant Jews will eat only glatt kosher foods.
Opening a glatt kosher stand has its risks. Often, kosher food products cost more than the nonkosher ones. It also means not being open on Shabbat - Friday nights and Saturdays - two of the busiest days in sports, and holidays including eight days over Passover and three high holidays.
"We say liveliness comes from God," he said. "Whatever we get, we get. The numbers go up every year."
Joel Felderman, an observant Jew, said the kosher stadium stands allow him to enjoy games more. A Jets season ticket holder for more than 30 years, he had always eaten before games because he didn't have glatt kosher alternatives in the stadium.
"It makes me feel like I'm a real fan," said Felderman, 53, an accountant from Oceanside, N.Y.
Is it kosher?
Kosher is a term used to describe food that has been prepared according to Jewish dietary laws, meaning the food is ritually correct or pure.
* Fruit and vegetables are inherently pure; however, there are many rules that must be followed regarding meats.
* Slaughtered animals must be ritualistically prepared: The animal's throat is cut and the meat is then salted and washed.
* Pure and impure foods cannot be mixed; utensils and cookware touching prohibited foods cannot touch allowed food.
* Dairy products and meat may not touch each other, and will not appear in the same meal.
* Prohibited foods include pork, game, horse, shellfish, fish without scales and snakes.