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SPECIAL REPORTS

Analysis of emerging trends in spices and flavourings in 2020
Wednesday, 14 October, 2020, 16 : 00 PM [IST]
Siddhesh Valvekar
While this year will always be known for the outbreak of the deadly virus, it is notable the way it has substantially impacted the lifestyle and food choices of people around the world and how spices have made the most out of it.

Rise of Super Spices
There has been a prolonged presence of healthcare as companies have been selling immunity boosters and supplements for over a decade however it has only been recently that there has been a surging demand for the same in the Indian market due to the pandemic.

Most Indian households have already resorted to a more organic method that they have been relying on since centuries; a cup of ‘Kadha' (an Indian traditional drink made using herbs and spices considered effective against cough and cold and seasonal flu).

Many social media influencers have urged viewers on adding home-made herbal teas to their daily fitness regime which has led to awareness towards health benefits of spices like ginger, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and many more easily found in any kitchen.

Compared to others, ginger and turmeric have shown significant increase in value and volume in terms of export, especially, ginger that is widely grown across the country. The immune booster smoothies that have become trendy are incomplete without the blends of super spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and mint.

The spice export figures crossed the historic 3 billion US$ mark during 2019-20 compared to the 2.8 billion US$ last year as reported by the Spices Board of India. The super spice ginger registered an overall increase of 178 per cent in export volumes from the previous year figures and other spices like pepper, turmeric and cumin also showed a significant rise in the numbers. As the world focusses towards importance of immunity building ingredients, India turns out to be a notable ally in terms of the spice export market and with the increase in demand for these spices in overseas markets, we should only expect the figures to shoot up over the following years.

Aiding Progressive Food Habits
With every passing year, there is a tremendous shoot-up in the number of people who are switching to healthy food habits. This year most of the top supermarkets in the UK had a dedicated range of vegan options in response to its vegan population that quadrupled from 2014-2019.

Many agro-food industries and start-ups have originated to cater to this growing percentage of health-conscious beings. There might be a bunch of stereotypes attached to vegan diets, list-long restrictions for the gluten-free meals and many do’s and don’ts associated with the kosher laws but spices have made these bland meals much more palatable by adding distinctive flavours to it.

Readymade sauces and instant spice mixes have become favourable for cooking delicious meals with its increasing popularity during lockdown while restaurants and eateries were shut. Let’s not only make it about the flavour entirely because spices come with a nutritive value being rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and carotene depending on what spices are used.

This has shown considerable influence on the variety of options available in food products like tea where many ordinary players in the tea sector have achieved to get more audience by introducing new collections of herbal teas that help in developing enhanced physical immunity in the human body. They have also expanded their production methods to accommodate a diverse variety of flavoured teas like Chamomile, Spearmint and Rose that possess stress relieving properties.

Businesses have studied this healthy shift of consumer’s food preferences and added the immunity layer to their marketing strategies to create business opportunities trying to compensate for the drop in sales caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the immunity layer prevails in all forms of digital marketing strategies to help businesses flourish, the use of spices and flavourings will continue to aid and support this inclination of a consumer towards progressive food habits.

Live Organically
Apart from being involved in ethnic cuisines and piquant liqueurs, spices have secured their position in a wide range of healthcare products that need not be consumed directly to have an effect. The cloves we were asked to chew to combat toothaches when we were kids are now processed and packaged in the form of clove oil that is easily accessible online.

Cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and many other uncommon spices have been used extensively for producing health care and dental care products. There is a lot of availability of herbal options for skin care products to choose from which have found immense success because of fewer or no side-effects they cause.

The herbal market is expected to show a 6.5 per cent increase in the compound annual growth rate during the forecast period of 2020-2025. The main attribute that has contributed to this climbing rate is the consumer’s awareness of harmful effects of chemical additives in beauty products.

One of the key slogans of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative emphasises on the need for utilising products made in India which use locally sourced ingredients. Many industrial establishments that have expertise in the herbal products market obtain spices from farmers that grow them organically and this applies to medicines as well.

Organic living might sound like a contemporary approach but it is not something the Indians were not familiar with considering almost three quarters of Indian households still find comfort in Ayurvedic products. Spices will soon enjoy all the limelight for being vital components in the herbal market and will be looked at from a view that’s different from the culinary aspect.

The Spice Stir
Another commonly associated typecast with spices in regards to their utilisation in beverages is that it totals up the medicinal features of that beverage. However, if you have been following the upcoming trends in mocktails and cocktails you will realise that except for the Classic Hot Toddy (drink made with liquor and spices to relieve symptoms of cold), spices are seldom added for medicinal benefits.

Cinnamon has been very handy to mixologists and bartenders with their experiments with rum and whiskey which has resulted in the invention of a top-selling cinnamon flavoured whiskey brand called Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. Owing to its unique flavour and compatibility, many Europeans have started using chocolate coated cinnamon stick stirrers with coffee which was earlier only limited to sprinkling cinnamon powder over a hot cup of cappuccino.

For most newbie beverage producers an easy way to come out clean on the labels of their beverage bottles is to use spices that are capable of imparting flavour to the drink without welcoming the calories that accompany with artificial ones. It is an intricate process to implement; to rely solely on spices for striking a balance between sweet and sour flavours but we must focus on how friendly they are to a consumer’s gut on the longer run.

An excellent example to mention here would be spice flavoured kombuchas and fermented beers which are based on the beneficial bacteria present in the flesh of root ginger for formation of a culture popularly known as ginger bug.

Spices have been the head honchos in many popular liqueurs (not to be confused with liquor; a strong sweet flavoured alcoholic spirit) like Pernod Anise which is made from distillates of anise and fennel; Kummel that is a sweet liqueur flavoured with caraway seeds, cumin and fennel and if you have heard of the French herbal liqueur Benedictine flavoured with 27 flowers, berries, herbs, roots and spices.

Spices have crossed a long route from being considered valuable gifts fit for kings followed by decades of trade to opening a new world of possibilities of application in the food and beverage industry.

(The author is former STEP Associate with Trident, Chennai. He can be reached at siddheshvalvekar21@gmail.com)
 
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