Dijas Foods and Sweet Success with Less Sugar

We spoke with Daniel Zelikovich, the founder of Dijas Natural Foods, and Dan Klein, the Sales Director. Established with a vision to produce high-quality, kosher-certified baked goods, Dijas has expanded its product range and market reach. In this interview, we talked about how Dijas continues to uphold its founding values in a competitive industry, highlighting the insights and strategies shared by Daniel Zelikovich and Dan Klein. 

OU Kosher: Could you give me an overview of what your company does and your respective roles in the organization? 

Daniel: I am the owner; I’ve owned the company for about 20 years. The focus is on natural, better-for-you desserts that cater to the kosher community primarily, as well as the natural and vegan communities. We incorporate these dietary needs for customers who are dairy-free. 

OU Kosher: And what would you say is the core objective of your operations? 

Daniel: As I mentioned, being vegan aligns with our objective, and selling ‘better-for-you’ dessert products. It’s a healthier indulgence for people. We also aim to provide good kosher parve products and our Pas Yisroel products for the kosher community. 

OU Kosher: So you’re seeing a definite demand for these products? 

OU Kosher certified DIJAS Natural Foods

Daniel: Absolutely, there is a need. There are fewer and fewer manufacturers that make this kind of product because we are a scratch-baked bakery. We do most of our products from scratch, including branded products and private labels. Even our private label products like kosher Parve Pas Yisrael are used by many of our customers who then label them with their own brand and showcase them as in-store baked kosher Parve products. 

OU Kosher: Can you describe the scope of your kosher products? Are you reaching beyond typical kosher outlets? 

Daniel: Yes, geographically, our immediate vicinity is the tri-state area. We also distribute through Whole Foods and Wegmans, which takes our products to Virginia, Maryland, Boston, and Massachusetts. 

OU Kosher: Can you tell me why you chose OU for your kosher certification? 

Daniel: We chose OU because it’s regarded as the Rolls Royce of kosher certifications. 

OU Kosher: Can you describe your initial experience working with OU Kosher certification and how has the relationship evolved over time? 

Dan: At first, it was somewhat challenging as we adjusted to the rigorous standards. But after we fully grasped the expectations and processes, our partnership with OU smoothed out and became very productive. 

OU Kosher: Great to hear. Could you tell me more about your roles within the company? 

Daniel: As the owner, my role has evolved. I’m not as involved in the day-to-day operations as I used to be, but I’ve delegated a lot of responsibility to Dan, who’s doing a fantastic job as our operations manager. He also manages our sales efforts. 

Dan: And I’m involved in the sales operations. We work side by side, but I take a lead role in the more hands-on day-to-day operations, while Daniel acts more as a consultant on an as-needed basis. 

OU Kosher certified DIJAS natural foods vegan muffinsOU Kosher: Can you talk a bit about your markets and audiences? Who are you trying to reach, and how are you reaching them? 

Daniel: Our model is to cater to the kosher clientele and those who appreciate the dietary properties of our products. We are in some kosher markets around our area. 

Dan: There are some challenges, especially since we compete with in-store bakeries. Store management isn’t always very aware of how our products should be merchandised. 

Daniel: Our niche is in-store bakeries, whether kosher or regular. Our products are unique; for instance, we make a fat-free, sodium-free, now sugar-free, and flourless biscotti line here in the United States. It’s a mainstream item but competes with other bakery products. If needed, we also provide private label items for stores to represent as their in-house baked goods. Consistency is a challenge in our market today, and good artisan bakery personnel are not widely available. 

Dan: This makes it logical for stores to sell our products, but it also presents logistical challenges. When we’re in a non-kosher market, we focus heavily on the clean ingredients of our labels. 

OU Kosher: Is that generally how you market the product, emphasizing the clean ingredients? 

Dan: Yes, that’s a big part of it. Nowadays, people really read the ingredients on labels closely. 

OU Kosher: And that’s effective? 

Dan: Absolutely, it’s one of our key differentiators for sure. We use all natural ingredients, no GMOs. It’s something customers can easily understand and appreciate when they read the label. 

OU Kosher: How do you pitch it to the consumers? 

Dan: It’s a straightforward pitch about our use of natural ingredients and the benefits they offer, such as longer shelf life. Take our biscotti, for example; being a dried cookie, it lasts longer than something like a chocolate chip cookie but without preservatives. 

OU Kosher: So you have preservative-free options? 

Dan: Yes, we make products without preservatives. We also offer two sugar-free flavors and three flourless flavors, catering to different dietary needs. 

OU Kosher: How do you handle marketing and sales in stores? 

Dan: Our in-store marketing primarily involves positioning and signage. We are open to paid advertising and regularly run promotions on a quarterly basis. We coordinate with our partners to highlight different items at different times, keeping the offerings fresh and engaging for customers. 

OU Kosher: Where do your advertising dollars generally go? 

Dan: That would be more for Daniel to address. But yes, we do engage in paid advertising to raise awareness and drive sales, both in stores and directly to consumers. 

OU Kosher: Are you doing any direct-to-consumer sales? 

Dan: Yes, we started direct online sales during COVID, which pushed us into the online space, notably on platforms like Amazon. Since then, we’ve seen growth in this area. 

OU Kosher: How are your marketing efforts on Amazon? 

Dan: We work with a third-party reseller who manages our Amazon presence and the advertising there. We’ve not been very active with ads on our website or social media recently, as we’ve faced challenges finding the right talent to manage these efforts effectively. 

OU Kosher: Have you tried social media campaigns? 

Dan: We’ve run some campaigns on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but we didn’t see enough benefit to justify the expense. We’re aware of the need to be more active, especially in directing store traffic via social media, but we’re still figuring out the best approach. 

OU Kosher: Apart from private label work, do you operate as a co-packer for other brands? 

Dan: No, we don’t engage in co-packing. Our focus is strictly on our own products and private label arrangements. 

OU Kosher: Can you talk about quality control and R&D within your company? 

Dan: Sure, our R&D is largely data-driven. We gather insights from various sources, including direct customer feedback from our website and data analytics from Amazon. This feedback influences our product development, helping us tailor our offerings to meet customer demands and preferences. We use tools like Lucky Orange to track customer engagement on our website, which helps us understand what attracts our customers the most. 

OU Kosher: Dan, can you provide an example of a product that was developed based on customer feedback? 

Dan: Our most recent item that we launched on Amazon and our website a few months ago is our Biscotti Granola. It’s granola, but it includes our biscotti bits. 

OU Kosher: How do you use the biscotti bits in the granola? 

Dan: When you make biscotti, it’s breakable, so we end up with breakage in every batch. Initially, we were selling these as bits, small portions of broken biscotti. We then devised a way to incorporate these broken pieces into a granola mix. 

OU Kosher: That sounds innovative. How is it being received in the market? 

Dan: It’s just started to move. We recently launched it on Amazon, so it’s too early to see significant movement, but it tastes really good and it’s lower in sugar than most granolas. 

OU Kosher: And you mentioned a sugar-free and flourless biscotti. Can you tell more about that? 

Dan: Yes, especially our sugar-free options. We have three flavors, and we use a natural sugar substitute that’s suitable for baking, which is hard to find. This substitute is a specific blend from Europe, developed to have a granular structure stable enough for baking, and it’s 25% less sweet than regular sugar. 

OU Kosher: That’s impressive. How well is it selling? 

Dan: It’s doing OK. Amazon has picked it up, and most retailers that carry our biscotti also carry the sugar-free version. It doesn’t move as fast as the traditional biscotti, but for a sugar-free product, it’s performing quite well. 

OU Kosher: What is your best-selling product? 

Dan: Our Pistachio Biscotti is definitely the best seller. It’s a traditional treat, fat-free and low in calories. 

OU Kosher: What certifications do you have on your products? 

Dan: Our products are certified OU Parve and vegan by OUI. We are non-GMO but not non-GMO certified. 

OU Kosher: Are there any plans to get non-GMO certification? 

Dan: No, not at this point. We don’t think it’s necessary. 

OU Kosher: Can you discuss your roadmap? Where are you planning to take the company and new products? 

Dan: We’re looking to expand to more marketplaces around the tri-state area and increase business there. Our model involves distribution and manufacturing; we have our own trucks for local deliveries but also work with distributors like River Valley to expand our reach. 

OU Kosher: And what about gluten-free options? 

Dan: We’re producing flourless products, but we are not gluten-free certified. 

OU Kosher: What would you like to tell kosher consumers about your product? 

Dan: Take a look at us; we have a great item that you might not know about, and it’s all about quality. 

OU Kosher: What specific qualities? 

Dan: Our products contain no preservatives and are freshly made from scratch. 

OU Kosher: Anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered? 

Dan: No, I think we’ve covered everything. We’re just looking to attract more customers, especially through our website and other retail avenues. 

OU Kosher: It sounds like reaching new customers is crucial for you. 

Dan: Absolutely, it’s a common need for all businesses. We already have a lot of stores that know and carry our products—about 200 stores. But we need to increase foot traffic in those stores to really see the impact. We believe proper social media campaigns could help create the demand that’s currently missing. 

OU Kosher: Thank you, Daniel and Dan, for sharing your story and insights into how Dijas Foods has partnered with OU Kosher, creating “better for you” products with less sugar. 

Daniel: Thank you for the opportunity!  

Dan: Yes, thank you. We’re excited about what’s ahead and look forward to continuing to bring high-quality, health-conscious baked goods to our customers. 

Interviewer: We look forward to seeing what’s next. 

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