Asbury Park the 55th Annual Fancy Food and Confectionary trade show in New York City, which had about 24,000 buyers and attendees and over 1200 vendors. This year, for its first year, there was a Palestinian pavilion of food manufacturers, which contained seven companies. Yes, a contingent of 7 is small when compared to the Italian foods pavilion, which had a mere 235 separate exhibitors, but it was a start.
Organized by Paltrade.org, which represents 230 Palestinian companies, and the Carana Corporation which is under a contract from the US AID, the participating firms included Al-Ard Palestinian Agri-Products (Anabtawi) of Nablus,
which sells premium olive oil products “from the ancient trees of Palestine”; Al-Jebrini Investment Co., of Hebron which has focused on dairy products for five decades; Alhathnawi Co. of Jenin, which has sold herbs and oils since 1952; Al-Qasrawi of Hebron, which since 1992, has focused on snacks, puffed nuts, seeds and potato chips; Maslamani Brothers of Nablus, which sells seeds; Sinokrot Food Co. of Ramallah which makes biscuits and chocolate confections; and Zadona Agro-Industrial Co of Tubass which manufactures canned pickles, peppers, and eggplants.
According to Carana, olive trees grow on over eighty percent of the arable land in the West Bank, and it is like one big olive grove. But the producers have not found a consistent market for its most plentiful product. Carana recently held a labeling workshop for a dozen West Bank pressers and consolidators to explain rules such as country of origin (officially, itâ€™s West Bank, not Palestine), nutritional information, substantiation for health claims (you can’t say, “use our oil, be the next messiah”), and the importance of attractive packaging for the fancy food, gourmet and premium virgin oil markets. Note to file: You also cannot say “get seventy (extra) virgin olive oils” when you die. Nor can you say “Wash your sins away with our biblical olive oil soap.”
One “Kayf halak?” from me to the rep from Maslamani Brothers resulted in him giving me half a dozen bags of watermelon seeds, almonds, and chickpeas. Dawoud Qasrawi had me sample his chips, some of which tasted like cheetos without the cheddar (or bamba without the peanut) and bugle-like corn chips. You learn so much at a trade show. For example, Dawoud sells potato chip “discs” which, when fried, puff up into chips. Oh how tricky! Just imagine, you can buy a truck load of potato discs, fry them up at your place, and have your own tater chip company. Sadly, no one was there from PITA (the Palestinian Information Technology Association (PITA). Maybe next year.