Although Chr. Hansen has long been producing non-kosher grape-derived red colors for beverages, the company said that until now their use in the US has been restricted because of their non-kosher status.
Bertrand Martzel, business development manager for beverages at Chr. Hansen Color, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the development responds to demand from Chr. Hansen’s US customers for kosher grape skin extract products.
He said: “There are other colors available, but when you are a doing a beverage with 15 or 20 percent grape juice it’s always nicer to use a grape skin extract for color…We use European grapes which are really rich in color.”
The company said that the extract “meets all the requirements as outlined in Jewish dietary law while providing stable, beautiful red shades in low pH beverage applications in a convenient powder form.”
The grape skin extract is also a source of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, so will also provide a kosher source for the dietary supplement industry. The particular polyphenols in found in grape skins are anthocyanins, which have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer, although researchers have cautioned that significant study is still needed in this area.
However, at the concentrations used to color beverages, the dose would be too low to enable drinks manufacturers to make any kind of antioxidant claim, Martzel said.
The new extract has Circle K kosher certification, and the company said it provides a range of ‘vivid and stable’ red hues.
Kosher’s wide appeal
The popularity of kosher foods even amongst the non-Jewish community in the US has boomed in recent years. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, 28 percent of all US food and beverage launches during 2008 carried a kosher symbol, and kosher has been the top individual claim for new American food products since 2005.
Kosher restrictions for grape products derive from laws against idolatry: Wine was routinely offered in ancient pagan ceremonies, so the use of wines and grape products handled by non-Jews was forbidden.
However, senior new product analyst at Mintel Krista Faron said that kosher’s increasing popularity is a reflection of consumer perception that there is a more thorough safety inspection process in place.
“My sense is that consumers probably couldn’t tell us what kosher meant, but the kosher mark is reassuring,” she said.