Bay Area matzah prices all over the map

But prices continue to skyrocket at many chain supermarkets. Safeway is touting a sale price of $12.99 for a 5-pound box of Manischewitz matzah. At Albertson's and at Mollie Stone's, the same package sells for $13.99. And at Andronico's, a 5-pound box sells for nearly $20.

The wild card in this year's market is the online market. But the dot-com sources also run the gamut. is selling Holyland and Aviv for $1.99 a pound. advertises the Aviv single-pound box for $4.92. But KosherClub's mailing charges could add $6 to a 5-pound order and Webvan charges $4.95 for delivery on orders less than $50.

Consumers will continue to reap the benefits of competition — primarily from Israeli firms, including Rishon, Zion and Holyland. At, a 1-pound box of Streit's costs $2.75, compared to $1.99 for Holyland and Aviv. And, while 5-pound boxes of Holyland and Aviv cost $8.95, Streit's commands a price of $13.75. The topper: Oppenheimer's 7-ounce box of chocolate matzah at $4.37.

Selection is certainly wider than in 1997 — the year two companies were accused of squeezing the market in a price hammerlock. Supermarkets were charging as much as $19.99 for a 5-pound box of the "bread of poverty." Jewish Family and Children's services fielded scores of requests for help from struggling families, students and seniors.

So severe was the pinch that the following year San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El jumped into the matzah business, selling it for $1.99 a pound. Afikomen in Berkeley also entered the field, offering matzah for the same price.

But it is perhaps a sign of the times that this year Emanu-El is out of the retail business.

"Our only reason [to sell matzah] was to get normal retail outlets to sell at a reasonable price, and Afikomen is," said Gary Cohn, executive director of the Reform synagogue. "We support their efforts by sending our members there."

However, he added, "There seems to be a little more competition this year, but I don't think the major retail outlets are doing anything any differently than they did five years ago."

Jerry Derblich, owner of Afikomen, negotiated with Certified Kosher to keep the price flush with what was charged last year. At $1.99 a pound, Afikomen realizes a profit of $1 a case — roughly 3 cents a pound. The payoff comes when matzah shoppers pick up kosher wine, candy and haggadot while they're at the store, Derblich said.

Oakland Kosher Foods is selling a 5-pound box of Zion matzah for $6.99 — with the "while supplies last" caveat. Oliver's Market, in Santa Rosa and Cotati, offers Aviv's 1-pound box for $1.99, the 5-pound box for $9.99.

Only two distributors serve the Bay Area: J. Sosnick & Sons in South San Francisco, and Certified Kosher in Oakland.

Four years ago, critics charged J. Sosnick and Manischewitz were shutting out competitors. In Florida, consumer outrage prompted the state attorney general to launch an investigation into price-fixing by Manischewitz, Streit's and seven local distributors.