|Privately held company|
|Founded||Cincinnati, Ohio (1888 )|
|Founder||Dov Behr Manischewitz|
|Headquarters||Newark, New Jersey, U.S.|
Manischewitz is a leading brand of kosher products based in the United States, best known for their matzo and kosher wine. Founded in 1888, it became a public corporation in 1923 and remained under family control until 1990, when it was bought out by a private equity firm. On April 7, 2014, Sankaty Advisors, an arm of private equity firm Bain Capital, bought the company from a group including investment firm Harbinger. It is the world's largest matzo manufacturer and one of America's largest kosher brands.
The B. Manischewitz Company, LLC was founded by Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz, in 1888 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Company went public in 1923 and remained a public corporation until it was taken private in a management buyout led by Kohlberg & Company in 1990 for $42.5 million.
In the 1930s, in order to produce their products all year round, the company created Tam-Tam crackers, which are little hexagonal matzos, according to a recent book Manischewitz: The Matzo Family, written by the founder's great-granddaughter, Laura Manischewitz Alpern (though the modern Tam Tam is quite different from matzo). Their original product, the square matzo, revolutionized matzo-making, which until the family's production process, used to consist of rolling the matzo and trimming the edges by hand. It was also considered quite revolutionary to make matzos by machine. The company built a second production site on Bay Street in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1932, to better serve the large Jewish community of the New York metropolitan area, and the Cincinnati facility was eventually closed in 1958.
In 1990, a $1 million fine was levied against the company for price fixing with its two main competitors at the time, Streit's and Horowitz. In 1998, Richard A. Bernstein purchased the company from Kohlberg. In 2004 its name was changed to R.A.B. Food Group, LLC and today is known as The Manischewitz Company.
From 2007 to 2014, Manischewitz was owned by the hedge fund Harbinger Capital. Manischewitz remains the world's top matzo manufacturer and one of America's top kosher brands. On June 14, 2011, a new 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2) facility opened at 80 Avenue K in the East Ward of Newark, New Jersey, serving as plant and corporate headquarters for The Manischewitz Company. In June 2017 the company said it would close the facility.
Manischewitz has revolutionized the way in which matzo is produced. By mass-producing matzos they turned the output of matzo-making from a strictly local product into a national, and eventually international product. Manischewitz matzos were also the first to feature uniform texture, taste, and feel. When the company first began shipping matzos they also decided to make them square, whereas before matzos had been consistently round. Manischewitz's main innovation - making matzos with machines instead of by hand - aroused some initial controversy. Some rabbis of the era claimed that in order to be acceptable for religious use, the matzo had to have been made by a man and not a machine. Manischewitz was ultimately able to overcome these concerns, in part by demonstrating the meticulous adherence to the halakha (religious rules).
Manischewitz acquired Horowitz-Margareten Matzo and manufactures Goodman matzo. In addition to matzo, Manischewitz-labeled foods include cookies, pasta, and soups. Other well-known kosher brands associated with R.A.B. include Carmel, Elite, Mother's, Rokeach, Mrs. Adler's, and Tradition; many of these were acquired by R.A.B. after successful runs as independent kosher labels. Kosher foods such as these are staples of many supermarkets in the United States.
R.A.B. is not involved with Manischewitz wine, however, except in name. It has, since 1986, licensed the Manischewitz brand name to the Manischewitz Wine Company, a subsidiary of Canandaigua Wine Company (now Constellation Brands).
Note: The Tam Tam cracker started out as small, flavored matzo, but was developed into a unique recipe not made of matzo dough. The Passover version is still an egg matzo cracker, but year-round Tam Tam production is not.
The Manischewitz winery is located in Canandaigua, New York, and has since 1987 been the property of Constellation Brands, which continues to license the Manischewitz name from R.A.B. Foods. The Winery was founded by Leo Star and run by the Star family since 1927.
The Manischewitz winery is best known for its budget concord wine, which is widely available in much of North America. Made from labrusca grapes, its aroma is unusual, and is combined with a large amount of residual sugar. As concord was popularized over the years by U.S. media as being the kosher wine, it is often the wine used by non-Orthodox Jews in celebrating Passover. However, Manischewitz's sweet Concord contains corn syrup, a sweetener derived from corn, which is a food forbidden for Passover among Ashkenazi Jews (see Kitniyot for details on why corn is forbidden). Manischewitz produces special Kosher for Passover bottling of their wines, which are sweetened with cane sugar as opposed to the corn syrup used throughout the year.
The sweetness of Manischewitz wine and other kosher wines is often the fodder of jokes. However, Kosher wine does not have to be sweet. One of the reasons for the prevalence of sweet kosher wine in the U.S., and in the Americas generally, dates back to the early days of Jews in America, when there was the need to locally produce kosher wine for the Kiddush ritual on the Shabbat and holidays. The combination of a limited choice of grape varieties that could grow in the areas where Jews had settled, along with limited time available to produce the wine and a market dominated by hard cider, yielded a bitter wine that had to be sweetened to make it palatable.
Indeed, so well known is the sweet Manischewitz variety in the U.S. that the existence of a thriving kosher wine industry anchored by vineyards in France and Israel, along with a growing U.S. industry, is often a surprise to Americans unaccustomed to taking kosher wine seriously.
The company has used the slogan "Man-O-Manischewitz What a Wine!" for advertising. The company and this advertising campaign are fictionally represented in season five of Mad Men as a new account.