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Spice Extractives


Food Product Design

Spice Extractives

March 2000 -- Spice Rack

  Food manufacturers today can choose from the biggest spice rack ever available. Products range from whole and ground spices in many different granulations to essential oils, oleoresins, liquid and dry solubles, spray-dried or encapsulated flavors and an infinite variety of blends of these products.

  Spice extractives can be customized to specific product needs, such as solubility, dispersibility and invisibility. They can be given particular traits - greater or lesser aroma, flavor and color, for example. Extractives can be standardized, so that each shipment meets consistency requirements without being affected by seasonal or year-to-year crop conditions. They're not only macroscopically clean, but are free from viable bacteria and will not support their growth.

The basic extractives

  There are two basic spice extractives - essential oils and oleoresins. All other extractive products - soluble seasonings and emulsions, dry solubles, spray-dried and encapsulated spices - are derivatives, produced for different characteristics and purposes.

  Essential oils. These are the volatile, aromatic components of a spice, normally extracted by steam distillation. Essential oils differ from fixed oils in that they are volatile at room temperature. For many aromatic spices, the essential oils constitute the primary components of flavor. On the other hand, products such as paprika, turmeric and the capsicums have little or no aromatic volatile oil. Their attributes of color and heat come from non-volatile constituents.

  Essential oils are offered in the United States in ready-to-use form by dealers that select and control quality according to customer request. Essential oils can be treated in many ways, including concentration, fractionation or solubilization, depending on the intended end use.

  Essential oils are used to season such products as spaghetti sauces, ketchup, mayonnaise and salad dressings - wherever there's an oil-soluble system. Much of the time, however, oils today are used to fortify and standardize oleoresins and other extractive products, or are used in blended seasonings.

Basic Extractives

Essential Oils

Celery Seed
Black Pepper

  Oleoresins. Some spices have little or no volatile-oil content, while the non-volatile components in others may be as important as the volatiles. Oleoresins contain non-volatile materials as well as volatile essential oils. Since steam only distills the volatiles, various kinds of solvents are used to prepare oleoresins; the solvents are then removed in accordance with federal regulations once the extraction is completed.

  Today, oleoresins are produced by either a continuous or two-stage process. In the continuous method, the solvent is circulated through the ground spice material in a closed system. Volatile and non-volatile extraction is accomplished at the same time, during several percolations. In the two-stage process, the volatiles are first steam-distilled, then the non-volatiles are removed by solvents, after which the two are re-combined.

  Oleoresins of spice seeds are sufficiently fluid for use as-is, and therefore require no additives. Other spices, however, usually require added vegetable oil and/or some type of food-grade solubilizers to reduce their viscosity. From a labeling standpoint, these are considered incidental additives and need not be declared on the finished food product.

  Oleoresins may be combined with ground spices to create custom blends, or used as a base for a number of different seasoning products. When using straight oleoresins, manufacturers normally mix them with a carrier to make them easily dispersible.

Soluble seasonings

  Soluble seasonings are oleoresins that have been added to soluble carriers, either liquid or dry.

  Liquid solubles (emulsions, concentrates, suspensions). When additional solubilizing agents, such as polysorbate 80, mono- and diglycerides and water-soluble gums, are added to the oleoresins, the manufacturer creates seasonings that are liquid in form and soluble or dispersible in oil or water systems. These are particularly well-suited for pickling solutions, condiments, sauces and beverages.

  Dry solubles. If the oleoresins are plated onto dry, but soluble, carriers, they are known as dry solubles. Typical carriers are salt, dextrose, flour and yeast; the choice depends on the nature of the food product being seasoned. When using dry solubles, the customer does not have to add anything further, because pound-for-pound they are the equivalent (or multi-fold) of ground spices, and may be added directly to food. Dry solubles are designed to be used in any food application where ground spices would be appropriate.

Safeguarding spices

  During spray-drying and encapsulation, oleoresins are mixed with gum or starch and water to create a slurry, which is sprayed into a very hot chamber. The water is then flashed off, and the resultant powder is composed of particles in which the oleoresin is encased in a gum or starch coating. The coating helps protect the flavor and aroma during storage, makes the seasoning more heat-stable, and keeps it free-flowing. On the other hand, when an encapsulated particle comes in contact with water, flavor and aroma are quickly released. As a result, spray-dried flavors are especially suited to dry soup- and salad-dressing mixes, beverage powders and any other products that are reconstituted with water.

Buying and handling extractives

  The first rule of smart extractive buying is the same as for all spice purchasing - deal only with top-quality suppliers who can assure the consistent quality that is one of the biggest advantages of extractives. Flavor consultation, guidance on which seasonings will best meet the product's needs, and help in developing realistic specifications are some of the other services a quality supplier can offer.

  Extractives should be stored in cool, dry conditions, never in excess of 75°F. Containers should be as full as possible and tightly sealed. For light-sensitive products; i.e., paprika and turmeric, opaque containers are essential.

Spice Rack is based on the American Spice Trade Association's What You Should Know informational series on spices. For more information, call 201-568-2163, or visit


Weeks Publishing Co.

3400 Dundee Rd. Suite #100
Northbrook, IL 60062
Phone: 847-559-0385
Fax: 847-559-0389

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