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Gatorade Goes Kosher, But Why?


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

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."
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