Today’s consumer is flooded with beverage choices. Is it that standard refreshing cola, tart lemon-lime or that sweet orange-flavored soda you are looking for? Perhaps it’s the New-Age fortified, vitamin-enriched waters or a sports drink. The choices are endless. However, the one word most consumers recognize about a beverage is if it’s “kosher.” Kosher is also used as a term indicating “its high quality!”
Since I’m from the South, I have often heard “kosher” as an expression validating one’s approval of something, more so than its biblical expression of Godly approval. A person would say, “Something is just not kosher about this,” meaning its integrity was questionable. Also coming from the South, I’ve had the benefit and pleasure of working for one of the region’s well-known beverage companies, Cott Beverages and RC Cola.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of working alongside some of the best flavor chemists in the industry, people like Dr. Bill Miller, Martha Jones, Bill Bruner, Jimmy McKinstry, Prem Virmani, Richard Nachreiner and David Ragland. They taught me the importance of quality in everything I do. In the 26 years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve worked in Quality Control and Research & Development as well as in other key areas. Product quality has always been the driving force of innovation. Beverage formulas were not just flavored waters with sugar. They represented the art of combining ingredients into a great tasting beverage, so that wherever you might be when you purchased and consumed the beverage, it would always taste the same.
Product quality is the most important aspect of beverage manufacturing and distribution. From the package to the pallet, we work hard to deliver the same great, high quality and consistent taste for consumers whether they are in New York, Miami or Los Angeles!
So how is such a process possible when there are thousands of ingredients available? The secret is in being kosher certified. Kosher certified ingredients represent the best ingredients with added quality assurance.
After years of working in the laboratory and learning all about beverages, my education continued into the area of beverage formulations. I took on the responsibility of preparing and submitting kosher applications so that each beverage formula would be kosher certified through the Orthodox Union. In this role, I learned that there were thousands of flavors and ingredients available for use in food and beverages, all of which were kosher certified. That again meant integrity and quality. This process was indeed a paper trail, involving every detail required for formula certification.
Tasks such as this meant there had to be a team willing to work closely together while being miles apart. I found such a team when working with Rabbi Menachem Genack and Rabbi Yermia Indich, as well as with their extended staffs. All “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” crossed to assure that when the OU symbol appeared on our product labels we had covered the bases and it meant it had to be good!
I’ve since moved to a different area of equal importance – Regulatory Affairs. Not only must we develop a product that’s pleasing and refreshing to drink, we must also be certain of its compliance with beverage regulations. The Food and Drug Administration provides guidelines for what is acceptable for human consumption and how beverages may be presented to the consumer.
Behind the scenes we have the Regulatory Compliance group working to merge taste and appearances into a government-regulated and approved product. At this time the OU symbol is on the package and represents the integrity of each step of the development and manufacturing process.
Yet, the story doesn’t end there. International visitors come to America and taste some delicious, refreshing beverages and want these beverage types to be produced in their country too. So we go back to the flavor chemist and start the development process over for each country. There are challenges in the innovation of flavor compositions because differences in cultures may influence the development of beverage formulas. It can be a challenge to provide a similar beverage consumed and enjoyed while in the United States to taste exactly the same as when produced in a foreign country. Local government regulations must be observed and many countries have their own regulations which may be different from the regulations in America. In an effort to meet the demand of a particular market while also following the requirements set by a government authority, it may be necessary to slightly alter the original beverage formulation. The teamwork we share with the Orthodox Union is what ultimately helps us get the job done and provide customers around the world with great tasting beverages!
Together we provide kosher approved products that are of the highest quality, while meeting the requirements mandated by each country.
Kathryn Bundy is a regulatory analyst for Cott Beverages.