Our Israeli venture began with two brothers, Imri and Miki Kauftheil. Sent by their parents to the Ramat Yohanan Kibbutz to escape the deteriorating situation in pre-Holocaust Europe, Imri, aged 23, settled into the kibbutz, happily digging irrigation channels in the orchards and like all others in those times, enjoying a meat meal once a week because of the limited resources available to the kibbutz at the time. Miki, his 28 year old brother, managed to stick to the kibbutz lifestyle for just six weeks before packing his bags and heading to the tiny metropolis of Tel Aviv to seek his destiny. Drawing on the knowhow he’d gained in his family’s catering business back home, Miki started out as a cook at the “Keta Dan” a very famous restaurant. It wasn’t long before he left to set up his own line of pickled and fermented vegetables, and delicacies with various stuffings, which he sold to the “Olei Polania” restaurant opposite the Moghrabi Cinema.
It was 1939, his business was succeeding, and Miki invited his younger brother Imri to join him. Imri didn’t have to give it a second thought. He, too, packed his bags, left the kibbutz – and that’s how “Miki Delicatessen” manufacturing came about.
The first dip Miki and Imri came up with was vegetable salad in margarine and mustard dressing. Inviting random passersby to taste their experiments, they noted which ones people raved about, and began producing them in quantities. Where was their manufacturing ‘plant’? At home in their shared apartment, of course – where so many great businesses typically start! One room was the production area, and the second was the brothers’ living space. Working on production at night, they spent their daylight hours running deliveries on their rickshaw-type tricycle. Miki took on responsibility for marketing, and Imri, for production.
Advice, and what were considered innovative recipes in those days, came from their older brother who had qualified as a physician and lived in Spišská Nová Ves, a city in central Czechoslovakia. He collected instructions for new products from professional literature and mailed them over, up until his demise in the Holocaust.
Gradually the brothers’ production needs grew, and they moved to a larger space in Hamasger Street, southern Tel Aviv. The new factory’s crown jewel was the brothers’ purchase of an advanced packaging machine that would quickly fill packages automatically instead of manually with spatulas. What a day of celebration it was when the first telephone was installed in the factory! Now clients could call in their orders! And who even remembers, nowadays, that Tel Aviv phone numbers then were no more than four digits? Miki Delicatessen’s number: 6182. But don’t try to call us on that number now! Over time, our number changed, first to a 5-digit figure (31182), then to six (331182), and as Israel’s communications infrastructure developed, to 7 digits (562-1182). Now, of course, we have multiple lines as well as the commonplace options of fax, email and website.
It was back in the 1970s, and Miki entered a field that was entirely new: refrigerated dips. That’s when the demand for what became known as “Eastern-style” salads and dips began to escalate, especially hummus, tahini, and eggplant dips. This range joined the various fish delicacies such as Ikra (fish egg dip) and smoked salmon dip, which were ‘hot’ items on all grocery store shelves. Creating this range led to such a surge in demand that we split the factory, and in addition to the Hamasger Street location, which dealt only with fish products, the production of all the other items moved in 1975 to a factory located in Bnei Brak. That’s also when our company began to hold free tastings for the general public.
Packaging and labels back then were simple, modest, and very apt to the humble nature of our company. Products were packed in the same type of containers used for yogurt.
In 1974, Miki passed away, and the company’s management fell on the shoulders of the youngest of the brothers, Imri. Working hard, he slowly expanded the factory’s capabilities, and was joined later by Miki’s two sons, who carried on the family tradition.
Demand continued to grow, leading to the 1987 transfer of the dips factory to Rishon Le-Zion, together with newly installed state-of-the-art machinery and advanced production methods to match Miki Delicatessen’s new reality of constantly increasing demand. The manufacturing plant’s workforce also grew, turning the tiny family business into one where everyone was viewed as part of an extended family. Once the fish products plant amalgamated into the Rishon LeZion location in 1996, all activities operated under one roof.
As the 1980s neared their closing years, and together with changes in Israeli consumer habits, organized marketing chains began to appear in addition to neighborhood grocery stores. Supermarkets dictated changes in distribution, and Miki Delicatessen, investing hard but smart work, set up a new marketing and distribution system which currently comprises a fleet of over 75 refrigerated trucks with a nation-wide spread all over Israel.
It was in the 1990s that Miki Delicatessen, now robustly established in Israel, turned its thoughts to the export market. Belgium was first to place an order, followed over time by many more countries where our products are now distributed, including USA, Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, Hong Kong, and more.
In 2009, at the ripe age of 93, Imri Kauftheil passed away. Up until his last day, he functioned as company chairman. Since then, his two nephews, Moshe and Ari Kauftheil, serve jointly as Miki Delicatessen’s owners and CEOs.
Currently, Miki Delicatessen operates two plants, one in Rishon LeZion, which produces dips and where the company offices are situated, and the second in Beit Shemesh, where the fish products are made.
Miki Delicatessen has set its sights on continuing to develop the field of preserved fish products and dips, and recently launched new cutting edge automation for its hummus dips and salmon products, with almost no manual intervention. Advanced technologies and consistently top quality conditions, among the best in Israel, keep us ahead of the game, while nonetheless optimizing our vast experience to maintain our long standing traditions.