Israeli dairy giant seeking new pastures in NJ

Israeli dairy giant seeking new pastures in NJ

CEO Yoram Behiri: Tnuva USA will be ‘player’ in America

Yoram Behiri with his children at his daughter Gal’s bat mitzva
Yoram Behiri with his children at his daughter Gal’s bat mitzva

The Israeli dairy company Tnuva is big. Very big. Seventy-percent-of-the-Israeli-dairy-market-share big. But the 80-year-old food conglomerate wants to be bigger. So it did what any other smart foreign business would do: outsource to New Jersey.

The U.S. headquarters of the most prominent Israeli dairy company is located in Fairfield, and is quietly but firmly attempting to compete in the more aggressive American dairy market.

Yoram Behiri is CEO of Tnuva USA, the head of the Fairfield office, and a perfect symbol of Tnuva’s aspirations for the future. Behiri was born and raised in Jerusalem, served as an officer in the IDF for four years, and soon after established himself as a “marketing businessman.”

After working in dental products and chewing gum and candy industries, he found his niche with Tnuva in 1998. Then, in 2005, Behiri was named CEO of Tnuva USA, moved across the Atlantic to settle down with his wife and three kids in Summit, and set up shop in Fairfield.

“My main job is to develop the Tnuva brand in North America,” Behiri explained in a phone interview with NJ Jewish News. “Through our expansion, I want our shareholders to still see profits.”

Tnuva’s shareholders have been seeing profits for quite some time now. Behiri explained that the dairy powerhouse has an annual $40 billion turnover and is primarily owned by the London-based firm Apax Partners Worldwide LLP. Its presence in Israel is such that the Israel Anti-Trust Authority labeled Tnuva a “monopoly,” which means it is subject to government regulation.

Healthier option

Behiri’s ambitions for the company in the United States are more modest, but Tnuva does have a long-term strategy.

“We don’t see ourselves competing with companies like Kraft. We just want to produce quality products,” he said. “Believe me, Tnuva will be a player in the American market. Not only in the kosher market, but in the mainstream market, too.”

Behiri said he hopes to accomplish this goal by promoting Tnuva products as a healthier dairy option. The company has already begun to eliminate all trans-fats from its products, from the Malawah Mediterranean pancakes to the garlic and dill cheese spread, a move that he believes will be much appreciated by nutrition-conscious American eaters. As recently as August, Tnuva unveiled its new lowfat vanilla pudding cups with zero grams of trans-fat and only 120 calories per serving.

The “sans-fat” movement may already be reaping profits. Tnuva USA has created and maintained many markets all across the continent. Its products have made a dent not only in Brooklyn, but in Las Vegas, Iowa, and Manitoba — far from the centers of Jewish life.

Like many before him, Behiri is experiencing success firsthand in America.

Five years into his new job, he and Tnuva have found a comfort zone outside of Israel. “I am Israeli and Jewish, but also happy to experience life in America,” he said. “There are many positive things to learn from business in America, and we will try to learn as much as we can to compete.”

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