The match factory in the southern Hungarian town of Szeged has created for itself a previously non-existent niche: kosher matches.
The match factory was approached by the leaders of the town’s small Jewish community (estimated at 500 to 600 people) who wanted to pursue the idea.
Factory experts said that creating a kosher match was a tougher challenge than expected: The normal binding agent in the match heads is gelatin, derived from pork, which means it is not kosher.
“We had to find a vegetable binding agent that is both suitable for containing the igniting part and meets industry requirements,” said Dániel Nesztor, head of the match factory’s laboratory and quality control. “This a recipe unique to Szeged, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody else in the world is making something like this.”
The factory’s commercial director, István Hegyes, said they plan on a daily production of 6,000 boxes of 45 extra large matches, 90 percent of which will be exported overseas.
If you think Hungary is an unlikely place for such an innovation, think again: In 1836, 19-year-old chemistry student János Irinyi invented the explosion-proof and non-toxic safety match, which was later perfected by the Swedish Lungström brothers.
Irinyi, who sold his invention for pennies to fund his university studies, may have died destitute, but his legacy lives on: The 170-year-old Szeged match factory is currently Europe’s only remaining one. Sweden ceased match production last year, and the only other match factory (in Ukraine’s Mariupol) was converted to aid in the war effort and subsequently destroyed by invading Russian forces.