Sales Director of Rakusen’s, Sarah Hemingway, spoke to Evangeline Spachis about the food production company’s enduring Jewish legacy and its future.
Leeds-based food production company, Rakusen’s had a change of ownership recently, however the new team has vowed to keep the passion and drive that has sustained the business for 116 years. Distributed to major supermarket chains as well as Leeds, Manchester and London kosher retailers, their products have been part of the Jewish table for over a century.
Rakusen’s is known for its legendary matzo and matzo crackers. What other products does the company specialise in?
You are right, Rakusen’s IS legendary – and it’s all down to the unique flame baking which gives it a great nutty flavour. We are experts in using the flame-baked process to make crackers of all kinds, as well as our famous matzos.
You also produce gluten-free products. Could you tell us more about these?
We have been producing gluten-free products for other people for more than 30 years – and now we are doing so under Rakusen’s brand. We used our expertise to develop a healthy gluten-free product. Most gluten-free products use added fat to make dough which can be worked without gluten, however, we have created a product that does not have added fat and carries a green traffic light for its ingredients.
Rakusen’s was established in 1900 in Leeds. With so much history under its belt, what keeps Rakusen’s competitive in the modern food market?
Our matzos are made the same way that Lloyd Rakusen made them years ago. They were good then and are still relevant to this day. These days people search out healthy, authentic products made from simple ingredients – all of the things that make Rakusen’s so special.
Still prepared in region, Rakusen’s continues to be prominent in the food production industry of Yorkshire. What’s the appeal of keeping the county its home for 116 years?
It’s a happy stroke of luck that Rakusen’s started here, but we are proud to be in the county with such a strong food culture. It’s a great place to work with access to excellent people, and our ingredients are a locally sourced. Right now, Yorkshire is having a real foodie moment and we are proud to be counted as food producers from the district.
The company is obviously proud of its Jewish background. How important is maintaining a connection to this heritage?
It’s so important– it’s the foundation of everything. We are a supervised kosher facility working with the London Beth Din. All of our production is monitored by a rabbi and he has his own office here. We are vigilant about every decision we make being in tune with the nature of what we make, we have a long history of kosher production and want to continue to produce crackers that are loved by our customers.
What’s next on the plate for Rakusen’s?
We will continue to remind customers of the excellence of Rakusen’s products. We have re-designed packaging, launched new products and have a strong new product development agenda.
We regularly update our website and use social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to post ideas and recipes, for example we’re always looking for matzo inspiration – matzo pizza anyone?
There are also plans to export – starting with in the US in the next few months, and we are currently in discussions with potential markets in Europe and Israel.