Trendy and kosher-friendly at the same time — that's the idea behind a Canadian glass-countertop manufacturer seeking to expand its presence in the marketplace.
ThinkGlass, a privately held company outside of Montreal, is pitching its sleek glass countertops as a good fit for kosher kitchens because they are nonporous.
A basic kosher rule is no mixing of meat and dairy. So having a nonporous surface means consumers don't have to worry about anything penetrating the countertop, which ThinkGlass director of sales Doris Kerpesz said is also easy to maintain.
"You can just clean it with Windex, and you're done," she said.
The company has been selling the 11/2-inch-thick countertops for about five years now, but only recently began to emphasize its usefulness for kosher kitchens, according to Kerpesz.
"It's an untapped venue for us," she said.
It's also a lucrative market.
'A Viable Project'
There are some 12.1 million kosher consumers in the United States, according to the most recent data from Lubicom Marketing Consulting of Brooklyn, N.Y., which focuses on the kosher industry. That industry is valued at $12.5 billion annually, according to Lubicom.
The company said that the kosher industry enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 15 percent between 2000 and 2008. Despite problems in the overall economy, the kosher industry powered forward over the past year with an annual average growth rate that stood at 10 percent.
Menachem Lubinsky, president and CEO of Lubicom, as well as editor of an online kosher-food-industry newsletter, said that he thought the nonporous glass countertop could catch on with kosher cooks.
"I could see many consumers trying to keep the optimum standards of kosher and make this a viable project," Lubinsky said in an e-mail interview.
Rabbi Aaron Felder of Congregation B'nai Israel-Ohev Zedek of Northeast Philadelphia also thought that the glass top sounded like a good idea, though at the same time noted that he didn't believe most people would be putting a lot of meat or other food directly on a counter in the first place.
Felder is one of five rabbis who comprise the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia, providing kosher supervision of area restaurants, caterers and other groups.
ThinkGlass has dealers in various parts of the country, including representatives in Pittsburgh and Bethlehem.
The company hopes to add a dealer in Bucks County early this year, said Kerpesz.
Dealers are listed online at: www.thinkglass.com.
ThinkGlass takes three half-inch pieces of pure glass and bakes them together. The countertops are sold for an average of about $250 per square foot.
Some consumers use it on kitchen islands, according to Kerpesz, while others redo all of their counter space with it. They can even be edge-lit to create a floating effect — and add some light to the subject.
Additional benefits Kerpesz cited are that the countertops are maintenance-free, impossible to stain, and do not require sealants like countertops made from granite, concrete or recycled glass.
"People are very into the green factor; it's very hygienic, and the pieces become a focal point of the kitchen," said Kerpesz. "They are excited to have something new and different stand out."