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Celebrating Passover costs more this year
Matzo, the unleavened bread that Jews have eaten on Passover for generations, is getting more expensive along with other Passover foods.

According to Menachem Lubinsky, a Kosher food marketing consultant who edits Kosher Today, prices for Passover foods are up 5% to 10% this year.

Sales of Kosher for Passover goods, which also includes non-religious goods that are permitted on the holiday such as Coca-Cola (KO) along with traditional fare including macaroons, were about $2.5 billion in 2012. He expects spending to be "at least that if not more" for this year. Passover starts Monday night and ends April 2.

Jews, of course, are the largest buyers of these products. According to Lubinksy, about 78% of American Jews say they observe Passover to some extent. They'll have more goods to choose from because about 500 new products for the holiday are being introduced this year.

However, Passover goods are also gaining popularity among non-Jews, some of whom are holding Seders because it was the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. Other consumers concerned about gluten intake are buying the products because many Passover foods are gluten-free.

Food companies "are trying to make whatever they can make for the holiday," said Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Lubinksky in an interview. "They can switch ingredients here and there."

U.S. matzo (also spelled matza and matzah) sales are expected to hit about $86 million this year, about the same as last year. "Manufacturers have raised their prices," said Lubinksky, adding that all consumers may not see higher prices because some retailers continue to deeply discount matzo prices when consumers make a minimum purchase of other goods.

About 35% of the matzo sold in the U.S. comes from Israel, up from about 10% about five years ago. About 80% of the unleavened bread sold in the U.S. is made by machine, and the remainder is made by hand. The latter type of matzo -- also called shmurah -- is shaped like a circle and is favored by ultra-orthodox Jews. It's also is the fastest-growing part of the matzo market, according to Lubinsky.

The biggest matzo maker is Manishewitz, based in Newark, N.J. Years ago, it ran afoul of man-made law when it pleaded guilty to federal price-fixing charges in 1991. It has since rebounded, and it remains the top seller of other Passover products as well as matzo.
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