The Power of Pareve

March 16, 2007

Pareve means that that the food is “neutral,” neither dairy nor meat, which makes it that much more desirable. Kosher law allows for pareve foods to be consumed with all foods, whether meat, dairy or fish. A pareve salad dressing, ice cream sorbet, chocolate mints or confectionary delicacy can be enjoyed with both a sumptuous steak dinner as well as with a refreshing dairy luncheon. Essentially,pareve is the universal kosher category. In an astute Bakingbuyer comment, Betsy Hater points to an ever-successful pareve bagel as an example of how bakeries can reach a wider clientele.“Bagels by nature are pareve, as they typically include no meat, or dairy, only pareve ingredients such as flour, water, yeast, sugar, malt and molasses. However, Reyna Paulker, co owner of Bagel Fair in Indianapolis, IN, notes that many bakeries use oils based on animal fats or whey instead of wheat gluten.”

These companies and others in the ice cream, confectionery, baking and beverage industries miss out not only on the ever-expanding kosher market, which includes the millions who eat kosher food regularly and consistently and for whom pareve is an integral aspect of kosher observance, but also on the everescalating vegetarian and lactose intolerant Americans, estimated to number between 20 and 30 million, who seek and search for the OU pareve designation as an assurance that the product is absolutely non-dairy. The USDA allows food manufacturers to put a “non-dairy” designation on an item that may contain up to two percent in dairy ingredients. For vegetarians and those who are lactose intolerant, even this small percentage is unacceptable. Only a truly pareve classification can guarantee that absolutely no dairy ingredients, no dairy residue and no contact with dairy equipment were used to prepare the food.

There is reason to believe that many lactose intolerant consumers prefer seeking out products with the pareve designation on the label rather than studying the ingredient panel’s ingredients, many of which are incomprehensible to the average consumer. The pareve message is simple and unambiguous – the product contains no dairy ingredients and has not been processed on dairy equipment or equipment with dairy residue. Without meeting these clearly defined criteria – the label cannot read “pareve.”

Often when trying to promote pareve to companies in the process of attaining OU certification or even long-time OU certified companies, I explain how pareve would benefit the kosher consumer and simultaneously create a larger market share for the company. The dual description of both kosher and pareve can significantly add to the bottom line of any company, particularly if effectively marketed to both the kosher market and the lactose intolerant population. Often, I am politely told that, “OU-D is good enough for us,” and at times more bluntly rebuffed,“We really don’t want to bother.”

But more often than not, there is no big bother. I vividly recall completing the Schedule A of a growing company seeking OU certification for its popular pareve cookies. Naturally, the Schedule A must list only pareve ingredients. Lo and behold, in my final go around, dairy raspberry bits, produced by an OU certified company, stare at me from the otherwise perfectly pareve Schedule A.“But what could possibly be dairy about raspberry bits?” I wonder. After consultations with the company’s RC, RFR, the company’s QA and more, I was convinced that my new company ready to flood the market with their uniquely delicious pareve cookies should not be allowed to give up its pareve status and market share because of raspberry bits produced in kettles that infrequently also process dairy caramel and are therefore labeled OU-D.With a cooperative spirit from the raspberry bits company rabbinic coordinator, rabbinic field representative and the company’s full understanding that the cookie company needs 100 percent pareve raspberry bits and not pareve raspberry bits product processed on dairy equipment, the company agreed to have the kettle in which raspberry bits are processed kosherized by the OU’s RFR.

So the story’s happy ending is that the cookie company has its pareve bits and the raspberry bits company retained a client and possibly attracted many more as word spreads about its pareve capabilities – all at an insignificant cost of several hundred dollars for the kosherization fee, and very little bother indeed. Indeed, more companies need to better discern the great opportunities waiting to be discovered in the pareve market place. Get your marketing people involved — they can report back on decisions that could ultimately affect millions of dollars in sales.

All of us at the Orthodox Union join with millions of kosher consumers in acknowledging and welcoming the many popular Duncan Hines cake mixes back into the pareve aisles, as well as the renowned Nestlé’s Good Start Supreme 2 Soy DHA & ARA into the pareve world of baby nutrition, examples of superb cooperation between great companies and the world’s largest and most respected kosher certification – OU.
Keep the pareve coming!