India supplies around 80 per cent of the world's needs for oleoresins - herbs and spice extracts, principally pushed out to the market from Kerala.
The closest replacement for a spice, oleoresins are solvent-free extractions sourced from spices. They contain volatile and non-volatile flavour components, and are widely used to season foods.
According to a recent study from Frost & Sullian, the rise in consumer demand for natural food products, coupled with the associated need for flavouring compounds from natural sources, have provided a major boost to the essential oils and oleoresins market.
Their research pitches the European and US essential oils and oleoresins market at €558m in 2002, set to climb to €666 million by 2009. The figures equate to shipment volume growth from 74,700 tonnes to 105,800 tonnes during the same timeframe.
Almost the entire quantity of global supplies is sourced from Kochi in Kerala, Richard C Pisano, president of International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trade (IFEAT) tells delegates at the group's annual conference this week.
The rest of the supply is sourced from China, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina and North America.
According to reports in the Indian press, Pisano asserts the stronger growth in oleoresins for flavours compared to fragrances "can be attributed to fluctuating prices of natural products due to natural calamities and other factors."
The fragrance industry likes to have fixed prices and is less creative, Pisano is reported as saying.
The oleoresin market has been given a further boost from the rise in demand for flavours from emerging markets, that have upped their demand for processed foods.
In India alone, a rise in disposable income is pushing the market for processed foods, currently growing at over 12 per cent a year, and in turn propelling demand for savoury food and beverage flavours.
Leading firm's supplying the flavours are Switzerland's Givaudan, US firm International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Firmenich, Symrise and Quest International: together they account for 75 per cent of the €187 million Indian flavours and fragrance market.
Remaining demand is fed from Indian businesses such as SH Kelkar, Sachee Aromatics and Oriental Flavors & Fragrances, according to market analysts Frost & Sullivan.
US and European manufacturers of essential oils and oleoresins are facing tougher competition from Asian companies, which continue to send market prices plunging.
IFEAT'sannual conference, that brings together traders, processors and importers of flavours and fragrances, will include discussions on developments in international regulations, applied R&D in India, plus new opportunities and challenges for organic oils.