For Fruit Slabs’ co-founder and CEO Roxanne Dennant, it’s important that all people get to enjoy cannabis, no matter their religion or dietary restrictions.
That’s why she sought kosher certification for the company’s edibles, which were already certified organic and vegan.
Fruit Slabs’ Pride Passion and Tropical Haze flavors of cannabis-infused fruit strips are now kosher-certified, and the company’s additional flavors, Grape Ape, Mango Maui Wowie and OG Mango, will be certified and available at participating California dispensaries by the end of the year.
Dennant, a converted Jew, founded Fruit Slabs in 2015, and quickly realized that many of her Jewish friends could not eat the company’s products because they lacked kosher certification.
“That became a slight moral dilemma for us,” Dennant says.
She embarked on a quest to find a rabbinical council that would certify products in the cannabis space. “Much to our surprise and also to our liking, we were able to find a kosher-certifying rabbinical council, and we reached out to them and just started setting up meetings and asking if they could fly to our facility, meet with us, check in on our processes and potentially certify the brand.”
Dennant, also a vegetarian and a former vegan, wanted to launch a product that would fill a void she perceived in the cannabis market.
“I wanted to put something out that people like myself—who were just lovers of edibles but couldn’t eat anything on the market—[could enjoy],” she says. “I wanted to introduce something that would satisfy that hole in the space. So, we’re vegan, we’re gluten-free, we fit into the keto diet, [and] there’s no added sugar so diabetics can eat our products. … Then, to be able to throw a kosher certification and a kosher symbol on our product, it just adds more of the checkmarks.”
The ingredients and the manufacturing processes are the main facets of the business that were examined through the certification process, Dennant says. The rabbi ensures that tools such as knives and industrial manufacturing equipment adhere to kosher standards, and that the cannabis extraction process also follows kosher guidelines.
“We’ve had to update, buying certain knives that are kosher-approved … for if we’re cutting up fresh fruit to make the product with,” Dennant says.
In April, Fruit Slabs received what is called a Kashrut Certificate, which certifies that the entire product—from the food and cannabis ingredients to the manufacturing process—is certified kosher.
“That was a huge, exciting moment for us, not only on a personal level, but also on a business level, because at that time, there was nobody else on the market that had kosher certification,” Dennant says.
While some companies list themselves as kosher, not all of them have the official certification from a rabbinical council, she says—they simply use kosher ingredients and a kosher process.
“Unless you actually work with a rabbinical council that has kosher-certifying approval, your product is not Kosher,” Dennant says.
The rabbi that certified Fruit Slabs’ products is now a member of the company’s staff, and he conducts random checks of the facility to ensure that Fruit Slabs continues following the kosher procedures set forth when he originally certified the products.
“You have to consistently keep up with being kosher and making sure that your facility is kosher, … or else the rabbi could stop by on Wednesday three months down the road and say, ‘These systems have changed, which means you are now breaking the kosher law, which means we’re going to pull your Certificate of Kashrut,’” Dennant says. “It’s 100-percent ongoing.”
So far, the certification has been a hit with Fruit Slabs’ customers, she adds. “It’s been really exciting. … People are loving it. The fact that we can show this product has a kosher symbol is amazing.”
Fruit Slabs is currently expanding into Washington and Massachusetts, and its partners in those markets will have to uphold kosher standards, as well.
“As we expand the brand, any of the franchise partners we work with are going to also have to have their facility checked with the rabbi,” Dennant says.
In addition, every time a Fruit Slabs launches a new flavor of fruit strips, it must have the rabbi update the company’s Kashrut Certificate with the new products.
“We find that supporting all different walks of races and faces and religions is something that speaks loudly to us and our personal ethos of the business, too,” Dennant says. “Maybe it’s just two percent of the cannabis industry that are following these strict kosher … laws. It doesn’t matter to us because that two percent matters just as much as the other 98 percent. They are just as important as all the other people that we’re already servicing."