Earning the prized packaging symbol declaring OU kosher certification can be a daunting challenge and a rigorous process for a business as complex as Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc. At Dreyer’s, the product line is extensive, the ingredient list is long, suppliers are many, and products are made at six plants in five states. But Dreyer’s knows that once it has earned the right to apply the OU symbol to its packaging, consumers will take note. And, when consumers take note, so too do grocery stores buyers.
“There are more than 11 million kosher customers in the US,” said Ed Trujillo, Dreyer’s Kosher Champion and Regulatory Compliance Manager. “That’s three percent of the ice cream consumers who search out kosher certification before they buy.”
Dreyer’s commitment to kosher certification is more than a focus on cash registers. “It’s also about social responsibility. We care about how our products fit the diverse needs of our consumers, ”Trujillo said.
Kosher certified products began rolling off the production line in 1991.Today, more than 90 percent of Dreyer’s 450 products are OU kosher certified, and every plant meets kosher standards. “We start with the idea that every new product will earn certification.
We relinquish that only if the formulation prohibits it, such as products with gelatin derived from pork and those containing grapes, such as Dreyer’s Fruit Bars. Grapes have an important role in Jewish= ritual and cannot be associated with regular foods,” he explained. If the company decides to change the process or ingredients in a product, taking the extra time and effort to recertify is a given.
Trujillo recalled when Dreyer’s bought The Skinny Cow® product line in 2004. “They’d been certified by a different rabbinical agency, and because we wanted to keep all Dreyer’s products with one agency, we migrated the products to OU. It offers the most internationally accepted seal of approval. Kosher consumers trust it – they know the rigor and supervision that stand behind the label.”
For the last two decades, Rabbi Michael Morris, OU Rabbinic Coordinator, has managed Dreyer’s certification. “I’ve watched the company grow from a single plant to a $2 billion company with worldwide distribution. I deal with a lot of big companies, and I get the most pleasure working with Dreyer’s. They have a great attitude about all that’s involved in certification and they’re always ready with the information we need.”
Before coming to Dreyer’s,Trujillo was the manager of kosher certification at Nestlé, which in 2006 became the parent company of Dreyer’s. Nestlé began seeking certification in the mid-1990s. There,Trujillo worked with Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, OU’s Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President – Communications & Marketing. Rabbi Safran’s praise runs high both for Nestlé and Dreyer’s. “When I first started working with Nestlé, I quickly realized that here was a top-of-the-line company seeking excellence in the way they go about all facets of their operation—raw materials, production and facility. Nestlé approached its OU certification process the very same way, seeking the best of all kosher certifications and responding to the kosher requirements with the same sense of excellence. Dreyer’s shares those same high standards and commitment.”
When a new product is in development, an early step is to select suppliers for each ingredient. “We can’t achieve certification for the final product until every single ingredient is certified.We reject suppliers whose ingredients aren’t certified wherever we have a choice,” says Trujillo. While this adds a layer of challenge to the vendor selection process, it also results in some suppliers seeking certification in order to sell to Dreyer’s. All six Dreyer’s plants operate under kosher standards and are inspected monthly by an OU field representative. Passing these inspections is critical to maintaining certification, and Dreyer’s takes pride in consistently scoring high marks. Trujillo explains: “OU field reps come at any time, unannounced. We’re always ready for them.
If a problem comes up, it’s usually small, such as a supplier’s box of ingredients in the warehouse missing its certification symbol. I go back to the supplier to straighten it out and forward the documentation to OU when it’s fixed.
” Nestlé and its subsidiary Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream have achieved major success in the US market by deploying proprietary technologies to produce significant innovations. Earning kosher certification is always part of the design process, built in at the front end, not as an afterthought.
Current examples include the development of Dreyer’s Slow Churned® Light Ice Cream, Dreyer’s Dibs® bite sized ice cream snacks and Häagen-Dazs® Extra Rich Light Ice Cream. Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc., and its subsidiaries manufacture and distribute a full spectrum of ice cream and frozen dessert products. Brands of frozen dessert products currently manufactured or distributed by Dreyer’s in the United States include Grand, Slow Churned®, Dibs®, Häagen-Dazs®, Nestlé® Drumstick®, Nestlé Crunch®, Nestle® Butterfinger®, Nestlé® Toll House®, Nestlé® Carnation®, Nestlé® Push-Up®, Frosty Paws®, Fruit Bars, Starbucks® and The Skinny Cow®. The company’s premium products are marketed under the Dreyer’s brand name throughout the Western states and Texas, and under the Edy’s® brand name throughout the remainder of the United States. Internationally, the Dreyer’s brand extends to select markets in the Far East and the Edy’s brand extends to the Caribbean and South America. For more information on the company, visit http://www.dreyersinc.com.
The Starbucks trademark is owned by Starbucks U.S. Brands, LLC and is licensed to the Starbucks Ice Cream Partnership, a joint venture partnership between Dreyer’s and Starbucks Holding Company.
In the U.S. the Häagen-Dazs trademark is sub-licensed to Dreyer’s by Nestlé.
Rabbi Michael Morris serves as Orthodox Union rabbinic coordinator for Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Inc.