Saturday, March 29, 2008

It’s ‘Hide the Matzo,’ for Real: Where Are the Tam Tams?

It’s ‘Hide the Matzo,’ for Real: Where Are the Tam Tams?

By Jonathan Miller
Tam Tam

What will you do in the great Tam Tam shortage of 2008?

It’s true, the unleavened, bite-sized matzo cracker has nearly disappeared from shelves across the country, leaving Jews anguished as the Passover season approaches, and company officials scrambling to explain the situation.

“What we did was put a brand-new oven in our Newark facility,” said David Rossi, a spokesman for Manischewitz, the maker of the cracker. “Much higher speeds, all computer-controlled, a state-of-the-art baking line. That was something we were hoping to have up and running well prior to the Passover baking season. Due to some engineering delays, we missed the window.”

Unfortunately, Newark is the only player in the world that produces Manischewitz matzo and Tam Tam crackers, Mr. Rossi said. In the past few years, the company has consolidated its production plants, which were once in Jersey City and Vineland, N.J.

In December, Mr. Rossi said, company officials were forced to make a hard decision: eliminate some of their products temporarily or make less of all them. They went with the former, which included stopping production on some less popular products, including Passover Thin Tea Matzo, Yolk Free Egg Matzo, White Grape Matzo, Concord Grape Matzo and Spelt Matzo.

But not to worry, Mr. Rossi said. Many other unleavened products will still be available to customers, including those for Passover, which this year begins at sundown on April 19. And Tam Tams — which were first developed in 1940 — will be back on shelves, he estimated, by late April or early May. Annual sales of Tam Tams range between $1 million to $2 million, he said.

After a report today in The Star-Ledger of Newark, the anguish was palpable for a commenter going by the handle “TamTamLover3116” on a blog for JTA, a Jewish news site: “This is the single worst catastrophe … in recent memory,” the commenter wrote. “Tam Tams, in addition to being a fulfilling snack especially satisfying after downing a double-size domestic beer in the parking lot of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago, are a basic human right. Shame on Manischewitz!”

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