OK, what associations do these phrases have for you?
If you're anything like me, your heart probably sinks. Kosher chocolate does not taste as good as top notch artisan and prestige brand name chocolate. In fact, it doesn't taste good, full stop.
Elite kosher chocolate is the bog-standard Israeli, usually milk, chocolate you'll find in any kosher store, and if you're Jewish, you probably remember getting little individually wrapped pieces of it in the goody bags you either got at children's parties or put in your own kids', depending on how old you are. It is so not...elite.
In fact, the whole world of Israeli chocolate is generally seen as a bit of a disaster area. During two years studying in Jerusalem, the one thing my daughter consistently wanted me to send her or get friends to bring her was upmarket Swiss or Belgian chocolate. Bars of Lindt, that sort of thing. You can't get decent chocolate in Israel, she would say. I was sure that wasn't true, but I faithfully sent out supplies anyway.
When she came back for ten days last March, she was commissioned to bring back serious quantities of chocolate for her fellow students and some of the rabbis teaching her. I walked her up to the stacked arrays of acceptably kosher Swiss and Belgian chocolate in our local supermarket. No, she said, it has to be Cadbury's.
They want Cadbury's? The English low-quality equivalent of Israel's Elite brand, so lacking in genuine cocoa solids that at one time the EU bureaucracy tried to force the makers to re-label it as "vegelate" because it consists mainly of solidified flavoured vegetable oil or "chocolate flavoured cheese", because it contains so much milk. Yecch.
Ah, said my daughter. Most of these students are American girls, who grew up eating Hershey bars, and to them, Cadbury's is chocolate heaven. And then there are the UK-born rabbis who did grow up eating Cadbury's, and to them, it's permitted nostalgia. They're just not into posh chocolate.
I had no answer.
I am a serious chocolate snob.
I shouldn't be eating any, anyway, since my ability not to finish a bar or a box once started is... very limited. But if I'm going to eat chocolate, it's got to be dark chocolate. I grew up in an era of sweet rationing, where such chocolate as you could get was Cadbury's Dairy Milk, ultra sweet and icky.
Lindt chocolate was something off another planet you might get to eat once in a few years. Like I still remember the box of dark Lindt assortment our uncle Max brought us back from his visit to Switzerland in the early fifties, and I've still got the box, because my mum used it to store old family letters.
Anyway, I knew there was an exception to the awfulness of Israeli chocolate. My Tel-Aviv cousin had taken me to look at Max Brenner, an obviously upmarket artisan chocolate maker right there in the centre of the most fashionable Bauhaus area of Tel-Aviv where she lives. From the smell alone, it was obviously the sort of place I might call a chocolate heaven. Everything in the enormous shop was as beautifully and thoughtfully displayed and presented as any Viennese or Brussels temple of chocolate, but the packaging was all done in utterly cool postmodern design styles. I resisted temptation, made an excuse and left.
When I last went through Ben Gurion Airport, there was a great bank of Max Brenner merchandise on display in one of the duty free shops. I had plenty of time till my flight was called, and I spent a good chunk of it looking at the Max Brenner stuff. How clever was their way of dissociating themselves from the dread associations, kosher, Israeli, tasteless, naff packaging. This is mainly chocolate in tins that don't look like the chocolate tins of my youth. These are small upright tins, with pale, subdued colours and a minimum of graphics. I turned one round and round and couldn't see any indication that it was even kosher. The message was about the maker:
Max Brenner. Chocolate by the bald man.
No Hebrew that I could see on the tins and packs.
So it seemed to me to be suggesting not even some artisan chocolatier who'd learnt his trade sweating over moulds somewhere in Antwerp. The brand name was definitely mittel-European, but it suggested more some isolated chocolate fanatic who'd got into cooking up his own brand. Rather like Ben and Jerry with their ice cream. A chocolate version of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak cooking up Apple computers in their garage.
I could see the appeal. Knock out stuff.
So here's the punch-line.
The other week, I was reading the Jewish Chronicle. I don't usually read their business news, but I noticed this story about an Israeli guy who was a lead marketing director or maybe something even more senior for Elite. And he was talking about their takeover of some South American conglomerate, along with corporate funding for their huge international expansion. And what was central to that?
Max Brenner chocolate. Elite owns it.
The most brilliant rebranding coup since Yasser Arafat led the rebranding of the Arab cause against Israel as the Palestinian cause.
I'm not even sure whether Max Brenner ever existed.