A Conversation with the Market’s Buyer Howie Klagsbrun
With more than 30 years in the food industry, purchasing manager Howie Klagsbrun has had significant involvement in every aspect of the business — from manufacturing to distribution to company building. Still, he considers being part of the Gourmet Glatt team his “most challenging and rewarding professional experience yet.” Read on to learn why.
What exactly are your duties as purchasing manager?
Howie: As purchasing manager, itís my job to make sure that our shelves are filled with adequate inventory at all times. That requires my anticipating consumer purchasing habits and trends as they pertain to normal weekly routines; Yomim Tovim and secular holidays; and weather conditions like cold snaps and snowstorms, heat waves and even ñ as we all so painfully remember–hurricanes.
It also means I have to stay on top of new developments in the market by, for example, bringing in ample supply of a product that has just become kosher or stocking up on all the necessary ingredients for the newest recipe sensation. Hechsher changes, stock-outs, FDA recalls–these are always on my radar as well, as is ensuring that our customers always get the best value through reasonable pricing and amazing sales.
Our new Great Deals at Gourmet program, for instance, is translating into unbelievable weekly saving for our customers.
MTT: What would you say is the most important aspect of your job?
Howie: In two words–customer satisfaction.
It’s my responsibility to ensure that every customer has a positive shopping experience every time they walk through the door. And if they should discover, once they get home, that an item has fallen short of their expectations–I’m the one they contact to address the issue.
As the saying goes, the buck stops here.
But, the upside of that, of course, is that I also get to hear all the positive feedback. So many customers take the time to thank me for the job we are doing here, collectively and individually.
But no one at Gourmet Glatt just settles for the status quo. When someone pays the store a compliment , I always say, ëThank you. Now please tell me what we can do to make it even better.í Because no matter how well weíre doing, I know thereís always room for improvement.
MTT: What would you say is the most common special request you get from customers?
Howie: A great deal of my time is spent sourcing specific products. I get a lot of satisfaction when Iím asked to bring in a really hard-to-find item and then manage to locate the company or distributor.
Itís a bigger challenge than most people realize.
MTT: The kosher food industry has certainly come a long way in recent years. What developments do you believe kosher consumers can expect to see in the next five years?
Howie: Many of the changes in the kosher and non-kosher industries alike will relate to healthy eating, most significantly in the area of genetically altered organisms, or GMOs. The use of GMOs in foods is controversial, since some experts believe it is responsible for a lot of previously unknown food sensitivities and that it can potentially cause even more serious illnesses, as well as problems for the environment. Since a growing number of consumers are starting to avoid foods that contain GMOs, the industry is scrambling to address this issue before the demand floodgates really open. So I think we can look forward to seeing Non-GMO on a lot of product labels.
Other changes we can expect include FDA crackdowns on mislabeling and adjustments to suggested serving sizes and other information on the nutritional panels.
Regarding the kosher industry specifically, we can expect to continue seeing a lot of terrific new products come on the market. Iím always on the lookout for exciting new finds, which I then highlight in the New Item of the Week section of our ads.
MTT: What effect does an impending Yom Tov have on your regular duties and work routine?
Howie: I need to be way ahead of the heightened pre-Yom Tov demand, so when itís crunch time, I can focus on the customerís full shopping experience instead of playing catch up with the purchasing. In fact, suppliers tell me that I am always the first buyer to request Yom Tov promotions, new item fact sheets and so forth.
I’ve been preparing for the coming Yom Tov since the day after Tisha b’Av. Because when that crunch hits, there is no scheduled routine; itís just work until you drop.
MTT: What would you say sets Gourmet Glatt apart from other kosher markets?
Howie: If I had to focus on one specific point, it would be that we really care about our customers. These are our friends and neighbors, so we feel a responsibility to provide them with the finest products and best service we can.
And that attitude is a two-way street; it gets reflected back to us in the friendship and loyalty customers send our way.
Krunchy Melts Meringue Cookies
Customers are always on the lookout for tasty, low-calorie snacks. This one really hits the spot–and with so few calories, itís almost a “freebie”
School Smart Snacks
With all the restrictions on what foods kids can bring to school these days, itís hard to know what to put in a kidís snack pack. The folks at School Smart have it all figured out. Their delicious and healthy snacks, which include brownie bars, chocolate chip bars, mini cupcakes and more ñ are all produced in a peanut- and nut-free facility and donít contain any artificial flavors or colors.
FlatOut Flatbread Products
These healthier option Pizza Shells, Wraps, Fold Its ( for sandwiches and burgers) and more ñ now with Kof-K certification ñ are the greatest innovations since Ö well Ö sliced bread.
Ice Cream House Sorbets and Sundaes
Packaged in single serving containers, these treats are so tempting, lots of customers tell me they nosh one or two on the way home from the store.
Skinny Girl On-The-Go Bars
In a variety of flavors, Skinny Girl bars are extremely popular among shoppers (skinny girls and aspiring skinny girls, alike) who care about the nutritional content of their snacks.
Attention foodies: Youíre going to love the incredible new line of balsamic vinegars I discovered at the Fancy Food show this summer. From Bakto, the vinegars are infused with all-natural flavors (no added colors or sugars). Now available in blood orange, vanilla, raspberry, strawberry, chocolate and peach ñ with more flavors on the way, according to Bakto.
Clearly Elegant Plastic Table Covers
Finally–I’ve found a clear, pre-cut plastic table cover thatís nice enough for the Shabbos table! They’re a full 70″ wide, very thick (good-by crumpling) and really easy to open.