Gatorade Goes Kosher, But Why?

By Justin Rohrlich  APR 09, 2010 2:10 PM

Pepsi is catering to more than just Jewish athletes with its newly blessed sports drink.


The Gatorade Company, a division of PepsiCo (PEP), announced on Thursday that it's “strengthening its category-leading portfolio of sports performance beverages in 2010 by announcing the kosher certification of Gatorade Thirst Quencher and G2.”

“Gatorade understands that different athletes have different needs, and providing sports performance beverages that adhere to kosher standards is important for us,” said Andrea Fairchild, vice president of brand marketing for Gatorade. “We're proud to make these offerings available to help meet the needs of athletes who maintain kosher diets, so they can perform at their best.”

It brings to mind an exchange in the 1980 comedy Airplane! when a flight attendant asks a passenger if she would like something to read.

The passenger says, “Do you have something light?”

The response: “How about this leaflet, 'Jewish Sports Legends'?”

There are a handful of Jewish professional athletes, like Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox, Omri Kasspi of the Sacramento Kings, Jordan Farmar of the Los Angeles Lakers (who is said to be the only NBA player to have been bar mitzvahed), and Mike Rosenthal of the Miami Dolphins, although no information exists as to whether any of them adhere to kosher dietary laws.

Other athletes, while not Jews, per se, do seem to have a warm spot in their hearts for the chosen people:

In an email message, Menachem Lubinsky, CEO of Lubicom, the marketing and consulting firm behind Kosherfest, the world’s largest kosher food trade show, pegged the size of the kosher market at approximately $11.5 billion, with beverages comprising 10% of those sales.

Lubinsky believes Gatorade’s kosher certification “should have a very positive impact on sales, as the younger kosher market is increasingly pursuing a healthier lifestyle, which includes exercise” and that it “will put PepsiCo on par with Coca-Cola’s (KO) Powerade, which is used by many kosher consumers.” It will also make life easier for one Zev Wineberg, a Hasidic rabbi and occasional jogger who's been on hand at the New York City marathon in past years, offering Powerade to observant Jews participating in the race.

“There is no kosher certification for Gatorade, and I felt that kosher runners should have something to drink besides water,” he told a reporter in 2008.

By Wineberg’s estimates, there are “several hundred” kosher marathon runners.

Today, there are more than 100,000 certified kosher consumer foods and almost 50% of the items in a typical supermarket bear a kosher symbol, according to Mintel Research. General Mills’ (GIS) Cheerios are kosher, as are, surprisingly, Bac-Os, fake bacon bits which are made from soy. Walmart (WMT) offers 5,365 kosher food products, and Costco (COST) has a wide selection, as well.

“It’s a real mechayieh (Yiddish for “enjoyable experience”) to have kosher products at Costco,” says Los Angeles resident Michael Berlin.

But with Jews comprising just two percent of the American population, why are consumer food companies making such a push to enter the kosher market?

Estimates show that, in 2009, nine out of 10 consumers who looked for kosher labels weren't Jewish.

“People who buy kosher are a very heterogeneous group,” Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the kosher division of the Orthodox Union, points out to Minyanville. Muslims buy kosher because, like halal-certified products, they can be certain it contains no pork. Seventh Day Adventists adhere to dietary laws that are near-identical to kosher ones. And the lactose-intolerant can be assured that the Rabbis overseeing production will slap a “D for Dairy” marking on anything that contains even the slightest trace of milk.

“The Orthodox Union kosher symbol is almost like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” he says.

In fact, the ties between religion and food go far beyond kosher certification.

Bible Bars are made from the seven foods that God calls “good” in Deuteronomy 8:8 -- Wheat, barley, grapes (raisins), honey, figs, olive oil, and pomegranates.

Bible Bar creator Tom Ciola explained the genesis of the treat in a radio interview:

“I was reading Deuteronomy and I said to myself, ‘I wonder if those seven ingredients could be combined into a nutritional bar?’”

He discovered that, indeed they could—although he had to add “a little puffed rice for texture and consistency” and “a little raspberry flavoring, for flavor.”

There are also somewhat less nutritious, but no less spiritual, products available for the faithful:

What does Wall Street have to say about kosher Gatorade?

Money Manager Ryan Krueger admits he has no idea what impact the new kosher certification will have on Gatorade sales, but says, “Just imagine the stats Dolph Schayes, considered by many to be the greatest Jewish basketball player of all-time, could have put up if he had access to the stuff.”
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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