Stirring Up Success: Hale and Hearty’s Strategic Shift into Kosher Market

Hale & Hearty Soups was a popular soup chain that operated in the United States from 1983 to 2022. After struggling through the pandemic, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2022 and closed all of its retail locations. However, the brand was given a new life when it was acquired by new owners in 2023 as a kosher soup company.

The new company focuses on producing high-quality, kosher soups that are available in retail stores and through food service companies. The decision to go kosher was a strategic one for the new company.

OU Kosher certified Hale and Hearty Soups with NYC Mayor Adams

Hale & Hearty gave away 500 cups of kosher soup with Mayor Eric Adams. From L-R Alan Shulman, Marty Levin, Moshe Gubin, Mayor Eric Adams.  Hale & Hearty gave away 500 cups of kosher soup with Mayor Eric Adams

We spoke with COO Marty Levin, who has been managing production and overseeing recipes.

OU Kosher: Could you give me an overview of Hale and Hearty?

Marty Levin: Hale & Hearty started approximately 30 years ago, and at its peak, it had 30 retail stores from Boston to Washington. However, last year in September, they closed all their stores and declared bankruptcy. Our company then took over its USDA manufacturing facility in Brooklyn. As of January 1, 2023, we’ve become OU Kosher certified, producing Glatt kosher and Pareve products. Recently we were SQF certified, which is the highest food safety certification in the land, along with NSF and HACCP.

OU Kosher: Can you talk about distribution?

Marty Levin: Nassau Provisions are distributing our retail pints and quarts throughout the Tri-State area.  They recently started to work with the kosher supermarkets for us. Springfield Group Inc. is distributing Food Service Bags contact.

OU Kosher: Can you tell us what stores you’re in and what regions you’re in?

Marty Levin: We have distributors that supply to Food Town and Pioneer Supermarkets in New York City, Amish Market, and many gourmet supermarkets where Hale and Hearty was originally sold.

OU Kosher: So are you maintaining all the original Hale & Hearty branding?

Marty Levin: Yes, we’re using the original Hale & Hearty branding strategies and maintaining the quality of the soup. We proudly say that our soups are like a meal. And in addition, we just introduced what we believe is the best fresh chicken bone broth on the market.

OU Kosher: Can you talk briefly about sourcing? Where are you getting your ingredients?

Marty Levin: Our chicken bones come fresh, never frozen. Vegetables come fresh from the Hunts Point market, and we buy all our dried beans from a commodities exchange. We always try to source local products when available.

OU Kosher: How has the reception been amongst the retailers?

Marty Levin: Our big business is in food service bags. We supply to Sysco, Aramark Food Service, and Fresh Co. stores in New York. These are all original Hale and Hearty non-kosher customers. But everything we produce is kosher.

OU Kosher: So your primary market is food service. And are you working at expanding to other regions?

Marty Levin: Yes, we are. When I got to Hale and Hearty, the products had a limited shelf life. Now all our products have a 60-day shelf life. Soon we will be shipping to California and Florida.

OU Kosher: Are there any specific challenges in going back and forth from Pareve to Meat?

Marty Levin: No, there aren’t. We produce pareve at the beginning of the week and have a separate day for meat. After the meat production, the Rabbi drains our steam system and hot water tanks to remove and replace the water used for meat. Prior to the formal koshering by the Rabbi, our CIP (clean in place) computerized system sends boiling caustic sanitizing solution through all the product lines. We also have a designated sanitation team to clean the outside of all lines before koshering. After the CIP cleaning and changing of the water in the steam system, the Rabbi does the koshering.

OU Kosher: As far as the consumer is concerned, have you had people who knew Hale and Hearty before it was kosher? Have they commented on any differences or improvements?

Marty Levin: There’s not much difference. The feedback for our soup is excellent. We have had the original chef for 27 years, whom I work closely with; he knows the taste we need to deliver. Fortunately, we maintained all the original staff that’s been here with Hale and Hearty, and I trust and value them all.

OU Kosher: Can you give me an idea of how much soup you’re producing each month?

Marty Levin: We can do 10,000 bags per shift. We produce both food service bagged soup, retain pints, and quarts in cups. Each food service bag is 6.9 pounds because that’s what fits in 1/2 a steam table’s pan in a store. The bags are packaged 2 per case. We are currently producing close to 54 million pounds of soup annually and we have capacity to more than double that number

OU Kosher: So you have capacity for the whole country it seems.

Marty Levin: Yes, this is a 22,000-square-foot facility that’s under kosher supervision, so we’re able to produce meat under the USDA. Our pareve soups are delicious. We do a wild mushroom soup with four different mushrooms and barley. Everything is fresh vegetables and handmade.

OU Kosher: Whose idea was it to make it kosher?

Marty Levin: My Partner insisted we would be a kosher soup company. We are in many of the original Hale & Hearty supermarkets and locations the company was in before it went kosher, and the customers were very excited to have us back. Now we hope to grow in the kosher market.

OU Kosher: I understand that Halal is an important certification for you.

Marty Levin: Yes, that has helped in terms of awareness distribution. Halal is very important because it’s the second certification. We are working with several Halal supermarkets to bring the product in. We meet both standards, Kosher and Halal. All the soup we produce for Hale & Hearty is acceptable for New York City food standards.

OU Kosher: What do you want to share with kosher consumers? What’s the most important thing for them to know about your products?

Marty Levin: Taste our product. Its high quality speaks for itself, and you will not be disappointed. It’s like “Bubby “would make in her own kitchen. We do not take any shortcuts.

OU Kosher: Can I ask why you chose OU Kosher certification?

Marty Levin: OU’s been around a long time and is a very respected organization. I personally go back with Rabbi Steinberg and Rabbi Juravel for about 25 years. We’re very proud to introduce this high-quality product that the kosher world never had.

OU Kosher: So how has the experience been going kosher?

Marty Levin: It has been a great experience so far. Our facility has a very good RFR (Rabbinic Field Representative), and we have had no issues because we operate as a USDA plant. We follow strict cleaning protocols and maintain a spotless environment.

OU Kosher: Could you tell us more about the inspection process and how it relates to the kosher rules?

Marty Levin: We undergo daily inspections by the USDA, ensuring we comply with their regulations. In addition to that, we also follow kosher rules, which are even more stringent.

OU Kosher: So you’re saying that the kosher rules are a little stricter than the USDA regulations?

Marty Levin: Yes, that’s correct. While we already adhere to high cleanliness standards due to USDA regulations, the kosher guidelines take it to a higher level. We pay extra attention to cleaning and maintaining a pristine facility to meet the strict kosher standards.

OU Kosher: Thank you very much for your time. I’m looking forward to tasting your soup, and best of luck. It looks like you’re off to a great start.