When spring is still a season away, food manufacturers and supermarkets gear up for the Passover holiday with special runs of major brand products certified kosher for Passover. For some products, like coffee, no real change is required, but for others, ingredients have to be changed. Why do companies go through all that trouble for an eight day holiday? The answer lies in the numbers--very large ones, in fact.
Kosherfest reports that the dollar value of all kosher products produced domestically amounts to $305 billion, for 10,650 kosher producing companies and plants. A huge chunk of that is earmarked for Passover, which accounts for 40% of total kosher spending. The dollar figure for spending on Passover products in 2012 was $2.5 billion, and it is anticipated to rise from there. But Passover products are not only sought after by observant Jews. The grain-free quality of Passover foods has made them appealing to those avoiding gluten, and the absence of corn makes them preferable to consumers citing improved taste and a preference for non-GMO ingredients.
Here are the top 6 food groups keeping kosher for Passover this year:
Maxwell House Coffee has become synonymous with the company-branded Haggadahs distributed at supermarkets in America. Though the Maxwell House Brand is currently owned by Kraft Foods rather than the Cheek Neal Coffee Company, the Maxwell House Haggadah remains a standby. Over 50 million copies of the Haggadah (a text providing special instructions and prayers unique to Passover) have been printed and distributed since 1932. The Maxwell House Haggadah Project, (not affiliated with the coffee or Kraft) pays tribute to this 82 year old tradition by sharing pictures and stories about the iconic Haggadah submitted by readers.
Coffee itself is not a product subject to leavening or classified with legumes, though instant coffee may contain maltodextrin, which can be derived from both of those categories. Most major brands of coffee produce instant coffee that is acceptable for Passover, although none have linked their name with the central text of the seder in the way Maxwell House has done.
Dannon Yogurt will have a special run of certified kosher yogurt for Passover, bearing the O-U trademark of the Orthodox Union: An U inscribed inside an O, either followed by a P for Passover or bearing the words “Kosher for Passover.” Dannon had been offering Kosher for Passover products for years, but failed to do so in 2011 and 2012 claiming that the demand did not merit it. After being deluged by customer and retailer complaints though, it resumed its special Passover run last year.
In order to be certified kosher for Passover, the yogurts' cultures and flavors must be free of any grain, byproducts from the fermentation of grain, and legumes, given their similarity to grain. Dannon’s Kosher for Passover yogurt includes only plain, coffee, lemon, and vanilla flavors, as other flavors contain ingredients of grain or legume origins.
4. Orange Juice
Tropicana, owned by Pepsico, has a 21 year history of offering certified kosher for Passover orange juice. Last year, it extended its kosher for Passover line to include Tropicana Pure Premium with Calcium and Tropicana Pure Premium with different levels of pulp in packaging sizes ranging from 59 to 89 ounces. The company has made the line available throughout the U.S., whereas previously the products were only obtainable in the Northeast.
Tuscan milk, which bears an O-U trademark year-round, adds on Passover certification for the holiday. While milk is neither a leavened nor legume product, it does require Passover certification as assurance that the milk has not passed through the same equipment as chocolate milk, which can contain those prohibited ingredients. A number of national and private label dairy producers obtain Passover certifications as well, including two of the best known, Breakstone’s and Friendship. While bagels are verboten for the holiday, Temp Tee cream cheese produced by Breakstone’s is available for Passover, as are a range of butters, sour creams, and cottage cheese varieties.
2. Potato Chips
Classic Foods announced this past December that its branded snack products will be kosher for Passover, under the certification of the OU. That means Kettle Classics, California Classics, and Baked Classics will appear in supermarkets' designated Passover sections this month. The main barrier to potato chips qualifying as kosher for Passover is the oil, as it is usually derived from legumes. Passover-approved chips substitute this forbidden ingredient with cottonseed or palm oil, and major brands of potato chips that have offered kosher for Passover runs include Herr's, Ruffles, Utz, and Lay’s.
This soda brand deserves its own special mention, as many Americans look forward to Coke's yellow-capped bottles' March appearance to stock up for the year. The Passover varitey returns Coke to the taste it had prior to 1984, sweetening it with cane sugar rather than corn syrup. Its flavor is so coveted that some people choose to pay a premium for it the rest of the year, purchasing bottles of high-price Mexican Coke. Other major soda brands like Pepsi and Dr. Brown offer Passover versions of their sodas based on real sugar, but it was Coke that was most sorely missed in California after Proposition 65 went into effect. But Coke has said that it will be back this year, an announcement to keep an eye on.