Interview of Steven Phillips
Manager – Corporate Food Safety and Quality
Blue Diamond Growers
How long have you been manufacturing kosher food?
Blue Diamond Growers™ has manufactured kosher foods for over 30 years. Our kosher venture began in the 1980s and continues to prosper as Blue Diamond Growers™ offers more and more almond innovation products. With the guidance of OK Kosher, last year Blue Diamond Growers™ expanded its kosher program by obtaining Badatz Kosher for selected industrial products for a specific Israeli market. OK Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Hendel’s knowledge and support was instrumental in our accomplishment of Badatz Kosher certification.
Describe your first encounter with the OK.
Having worked for Blue Diamond Growers™ for the past 19-years, my first exposure to OK Kosher occurred in 2007 when my soon-to-be retired predecessor, Gary Gray, introduced me to Rabbi Avraham Brod during a routine monthly kosher inspection on behalf of OK Headquarters. Since that first introduction in 2007, I have been responsible for managing Blue Diamond Growers™ kosher program and overseeing our ongoing partnership with OK Kosher. I regularly correspond with Rabbi Hendel, Rabbi Wilschanski, and our Account Representative Mindy Goodman at OK Headquarters and they are all a pleasure to work with.
How did going kosher make a difference in your business?
Maintaining a reliable kosher program provides Blue Diamond Growers™ the opportunity to support the dietary needs of our valued kosher consumer segment. Our kosher program continues to afford Blue Diamond Growers™ the benefit of supplying large confectionary and cereal companies with industrial kosher products. Ultimately, the standards associated with kosher have assisted with providing a level of confidence
with our customers and consumers that Blue Diamond Growers™ is committed to providing safe and wholesome almond products.
What’s the hardest thing about going or maintaining kosher?
Thankfully under the guidance of OK Kosher, Blue Diamond Growers™ has not experienced any major concerns with our kosher program. If I had to pick an area of vigilance within our kosher program it would be to formulate new flavors and seasonings without dairy constituents when feasible. Blue Diamond Growers™ is committed to offering pareve products, and not incorporating the declaration of Kosher Dairy Equipment (DE). As such, the Quality Assurance Department and Almond Innovation Center work closely together to ensure seasoning formulations are dairy free or limited to select types of processing where Kosher DE will not be a concern.
What’s your motivation for going kosher?
Our motivation for going kosher and for maintaining kosher is so that we can continue to provide the benefits of Blue Diamond Almonds™ to the world. Almonds are known for being a heart healthy food source with many valued nutrients and vitamins. We aspire to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the goodness of Blue Diamond Almonds™.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about going kosher?
While the initial investment of resources in becoming kosher for the first time may seem daunting, the process is relatively simple. Any perceived hardships with initiating kosher will be set aside as the benefits of opening a new market segment and building new business relationships are experienced.
What do you wish you knew when you started that you know now?
Since Blue Diamond Growers™ has participated in kosher for over 30 years, I was fortunate to inherit a well-established kosher program. One aspect of kosher is very certain in that partnering with a reliable kosher certifying agency is the key to efficient development and deployment of a kosher program.
Can you share with us some exciting kosher projects you are working on? Is it true that you have Passover-approved products in the works?
Blue Diamond Growers™ continually strives to offer new, innovative and exciting almond products to our consumers. Retail ready packs of almond flour that are approved for Passover will soon be available at retailers. It is safe to say that Almond Innovation Center remains focused on developing kosher projects that we hope will satisfy our consumer’s hunger for new and delicious almond products.
A word from Rabbi Sholom Ber Hendel, Rabbinic Coordinator for Blue Diamond Growers:
“It is a real pleasure working with Steven. He has extensive knowledge of the kosher requirements and ensures that the OK Kosher standards are implemented and adhered to at all Blue Diamond facilities. He is quick to
respond to any inquiries and constantly works to make more products kosher pareve and kosher for Passover certified. We would like to take this opportunity to wish Steven and Blue Diamond continued success in their work, which is greatly appreciated by both the OK and the kosher consumer.”