The Very Rapidly Evolving Kosher Beverage Industry

By 2026, the largest consumer group in the US will be the Gen Z and Millennials at 46%. They in particular, along with  and most segments of the beverage marketplace are passionate the environment and hyper aware of the rapidly changing world.   They want to be associated with companies that have a positive image and are committed to change and social responsibility.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, 64% of consumers in general are more focused on their health and 54% of people are willing to spend more on beverages and products that improve their overall wellbeing. Importantly, 50% of consumers are now actively seeking alternatives to alcohol, generating increased demand for reduced or alcohol-free drinks.

Juices and juice blends of any fruit or vegetable available to man, teas and drinks made of any flavor imaginable, diet or no-carb, fortified with vitamins and minerals and sports and energy drinks, all perceived to be of more nutritional value and beneficial to one’s health, are fast replacing carbonated beverages as the first choice of many Americans, including those that keep kosher.

Beverage manufacturers will  be focused on keeping up with consumer demands and trends while maintaining production capacity, sourcing ingredients and materials in the supply chain, keeping skilled labor, and upgrading outdated technology.

A new report by PMMI Business Intelligence (which covers soft drinks, juice, water, sport/ energy drinks, functional/nutritional drinks, coffee/tea, and water, but does not include alcoholic beverages and dairy products) says consumers are looking for beverage products that provide added functionality to their lives, enhance their overall health, and are available in convenient formats.

They are also increasingly concerned about the sustainability of beverage packaging, and 89% of the companies interviewed say they want to incorporate more recycled plastic materials in their packaging to reduce global plastic pollution.

Americans today have become extremely health conscious. Based on the wealth of information generated by the massive efforts of medical and nutritional research and popularized by the persuasive influence of the media, Americans of all ages are heeding the voice of medical professionals and are taking meaningful actions to take care of their bodies and extend their life expectancy. People are exercising, walking, dieting, taking vitamin and mineral supplements, eliminating smoking, stress. Above all, Americans are avoiding the wrong foods and eating the right ones.

Companies all over the United States have been seeking kosher certification to provide kosher certified non-carbonated beverages to the large growing market of consumers who have asked for them. The growth of kosher certification for the beverage industry has provided a unique challenge for kosher certification agencies, because beverage companies require a significant amount of involvement and scrutiny.

Making a beverage kosher demands a level of cooperation between the company, its workers and the kosher supervising staff because of an ongoing necessity to change production between kosher and non-kosher products.

By far the most common reason for kashering in a juice plant is because of the production, entrenched in many juice plants, of non-certified grape juice. All vegetables and fruits and their natural juices are inherently kosher. The exception to this is the grape. In Jewish law, there are specific requirements that need to be met in order for grape juice to be acceptable. If any of these requirements are not adhered to, not only is the juice, wine or products derived or containing them not acceptable to consume, but in addition they render non-kosher any equipment used in their production, kept in them for more than twenty-four hours or heated in them at a temperature of Yad Soledes (too hot to touch with ones hand) or higher.

Food Processing plants have traditionally been situated adjacent to the source of the foods that they process. Since apples and grapes grow in the same climatic regions and can share much common processing and bottling equipment and storage tanks, many apple juice processing plants face the challenges of grape juice productions which now have the added obstacle of supply chain. In many regions grape production is down by 25%.

When kosher grape juice is made, the equipment must be kashered after the non-kosher grape juice (independent of all other restrictions involved in the production of kosher grape juice). All equipment and tanks used in the “crush” or extraction of grape juice from the grape must be kashered before the production of any kosher juice, even if there was no heat involved in its production. The same applies to all storage tanks even if only cold grape juice was stored in them. One piece of equipment used in the processing of many grape juice products is a concentrator. This equipment removes much of the water content in the juice in order to create grape juice concentrate. Many extra precautions must be taken in order to properly kasher this piece of equipment. Therefore it is advisable that the company schedules all of its grape extraction or concentration together, thereby requiring the need for only one Kosherization (the process of cleaning equipment).

After the grape juice season there may be times during the year once the crush has ended and the equipment has been kashered, that a company has a necessity to repress grapes bottoms or re-concentrate grape juice, thereby requiring re-kashering of the equipment.

Another kosher sensitive ingredient that is still popular in certain sections of the United States and Canada and is used in many of these plants is Clammato, an ingredient that contains non-kosher clam base. A number of companies which produce Clammato or other beverages containing clam, add a sizeable amount of clam base to their product. Facilities that produce beverages that contain Clammato also require kashering.

Finally, the use of milk, whey (a derivative the cheese making process), other milk derivatives or any ingredient that is dairy, if used in an all-pareve plant – even when they are kosher certified – are of much concern. They render the products that contain them or the equipment in which they are used as dairy, requiring kashering prior to the production of pareve products.

Kashering prior to kosher productions can be time consuming and very costly. It is for this reason that the kosher certifying agencies encourage all companies that possibly can to eliminate totally its use of non-kosher grape juice, and use in all its productions grape juice with appropriate certification. In addition, the exclusive use of kosher certified grape juice creates many more products that are available to the kosher consumer, thereby creating additional revenue for the bottler, which can offset the greater expense of kosher certified juice.

If non-kosher grape juice is not being used, kashrus agencies still advise that all ingredients used in a plant should be kosher certified even if the particular product that a given ingredient will be used in is not certified and even if it takes place on lines where certified products are never run. This practice eliminates the possibility of mix-ups, which may require down time, kashering and possible recalls.

The dynamics of kashrus supervision of hot filled beverage plants is highly complicated. Many kashrus agencies have met the challenge and now certify thousands of beverages commonly found on consumers’ tables. Through meeting these many demands and developing an excellent working relationship with the plants, the kashrus agencies service their certified companies and the health conscious kosher consumer by offering an unparalleled level of supervision.

OU Kosher Staff