Labeling your beverage with special certifications can help you target and serve specific consumer groups—but often at a cost. Beverage certifications can be expensive and make your beverage more challenging to produce. Many beverage certifications will require that your drink— including the ingredients and production processes used to create your drink— be prepared in such a way to qualify for that designation. It’s not as simple as stamping a logo onto your label.
Before you decide on which beverage certifications are worth pursuing, do some research. Consider if the certification is necessary to your brand’s story and position. Think about the risks: will you lose out on more price-sensitive shoppers?
To help you get started, Flavorman has put together this quick, introductory guide to beverage certifications*.
*Please note this is a simplified list based on US products. Every beverage is unique and the regulatory landscape around certifications is complex; therefore, some information on this list may be missing, incomplete, or irrelevant to your country. Remember to consult one of our experts for information specific to your project.
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the regulatory agency that governs the labeling of Organic products. There are three recognized organic categories:
- 100% Organic is almost exclusively used when describing agricultural products;
- Organic is made using at least 95% organic ingredients while the remaining percentage must comply with the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) guidelines for ingredients that can be included in an organic product;
- Likewise, Made with Organic Ingredients must use a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with the remaining percentage compliant with the NOP guidelines.
Meeting any of these requirements can be difficult. To become certified, facilities that produce organic products must strictly control their processes to avoid using prohibited methods. Because of the challenges involved— including the level of regulation and inspection required— fewer (as compared to conventional) organic ingredient suppliers, manufacturing facilities, and warehousing locations exist, which is an additional obstacle for beverage brands seeking the certification.
But if that’s not enough to dissuade you, the pages upon pages of government regulations might; so for the sake of brevity, we would recommend that you consult with experienced professionals at each stage of the process to ensure you’re staying on the right path.
Non-GMO applies to a product without source ingredients containing any genetically modified organisms (or GMOS).
To make this claim, your product does not need to be certified by any organization, but you still need to have proof that your beverage meets the definition.
It’s worth noting that if your product is Organic, then it will already meet this definition and can also be marked as Non-GMO; however, the reverse is not necessarily true: Not all Non-GMO products qualify as Organic.
If you decide to obtain a certification from an independent organization, like The Non-GMO Project, you must take additional steps with added costs. This may be worthwhile as some third-party certificates come with special perks— like added services and recognition from consumers and retailers.
Gluten Free is another voluntary claim that can appear on your drink’s label so long as it meets all the requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA issued a final rule to define Gluten Free on August of 2013. Beverages that qualify are those that,
- Do not inherently contain gluten (e.g., raw carrots or grapefruit juice);
- Use gluten-containing grains that have been refined to remove the gluten, so long as the food contains less than 20ppm (or below 20mg per kg of food).
Whole Foods Compliant
There is growing demand for naturally positioned products, as natural itself isn’t defined (except for flavor) and isn’t something that can be certified. If you want your product to be “all natural” then targeting Whole Foods Compliance is a good standard to aim for.
To be Whole Foods Compliant, a product must not contain any of the following ingredients:
- Partially hydrogenated oils;
- FD&C colors, including FD&C Red No. 40 and Blue No. 1;
- Some preservatives (evaluated on a case-by-case basis);
- Sweeteners like acesulfame-K, aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, saccharin, and sucralose.
You can find a full list of Whole Foods’ “banned ingredients” here, but please note that creating a product without unacceptable ingredients does not guarantee that Whole Foods will sell it. Luckily, Flavorman has extensive experience (and success) in formulating products for Whole Foods Compliance.
As with Non-GMO and Organic, beverages are not necessarily required to be certified by any particular body to claim Vegan status on their label; but this certification typically involves the following conditions:
- Must not contain animal by-products (meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy, insects, honey);
- May not contain or be sourced from leather, fur, silk, feathers, down, bone, horn, shell, wool, cashmere, shearling, angora, animal skin, suede, mohair, and insect-derived silks or dyes;
- Sweeteners may not be filtered or processed with bone char.
- Liquids (such as beer, wine, maple syrup, and fruit juices) may not be filtered, de-foamed, or clarified with animal products;
- Must not have involved animal testing of ingredients or finished products by the supplier, producer, manufacturer, or independent party and may not be tested in the future;
- May not contain any animal-derived GMO’s or animal-derived genes used to manufacture ingredients or finished product.
In addition, acceptable steps must be taken to thoroughly clean and sanitize all surfaces, vessels, utensils, and machinery used between vegan and non-vegan production cycles to minimize cross-contamination if shared machinery is used.
Kosher is Hebrew for “fit” or “proper” and refers to how food and beverages must be handled, prepared, and treated according to Jewish law. For a beverage to be certified Kosher, not only does the beverage need to be Kosher, but the facility in which it is manufactured must also qualify as Kosher.
A large portion of Kosher rules address animal-based foods and the way in which they are slaughtered or prepared. Dairy, though it should come from a Kosher animal, is treated separately and should never be consumed or prepared alongside meat products or its derivatives, like gelatin.
Most grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oils are considered Kosher, though some processing methods and shared equipment may deem them otherwise. Because of its significance to many Jewish religious occasions, stricter rules are often imposed on wines.
The federal government does not certify Kosher products; instead, there are different religious organizations that designate Kosher products and facilities. If creating a Kosher beverage is your goal, you’ll need to research your nearest certified facility.
Halal is Arabic for “lawful” or permissible and referrers to how food and beverages must be handled, prepared, and treated according to Muslim law. For a beverage to be certified Halal, not only do the beverage ingredients have to be Halal, but so too does the facility where it is made.
As with Kosher, a large portion of Halal rules address animal-based foods and the way in which they are slaughtered or prepared. Similarly, most grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oils are considered Halal, though some processing methods and shared equipment may deem them otherwise. Alcohol of any kind and in any amount is not considered Halal.
The federal government does not certify Halal products; instead, there are different religious organizations that designate Halal products and facilities. If creating a Halal beverage is your goal, you’ll need to research your nearest certified facility.
Navigating the requirements and regulations involved in getting your drink certified can be overwhelming, but the team at Flavorman has the experience and expertise to help. From start through finish, our team of Beverage Architects can formulate your dream drink while ensuring it meets the certification standards you desire.
When you’re ready to change what the world is drinking, contact our team by filling out this webform or giving us a call at (502) 273-5214.