Value addition

Spices are valued as ingredients of incense, embalming preservatives, perfumes, cosmetics and medicines. The use of coriander dates back to the day humans learnt to use fire for preparing food. But for a very long time the seed spices were used as freshly harvested/dried form. Much later, people realized the possibility of producing essential oil by pressing the plant parts. This was used for medicine and fragrance.

The beginning of industrialization at the end of the 19th century changed the habits of people considerably. People moved from agricultural living areas to urban areas where fresh food was not available so easily. This was the beginning of the food industry. The primary aim of the food industry was to give cheap nourishment. The question of good taste was of secondary importance. This has dramatically changed in the last four to five decades: with the change in life styles and urbanization, the popularity of fast food (convenience food) has increased. Food brands were created but the brands demanded consistent quality and long shelf-life of the food product. This could be achieved by using ingredients of the highest hygienic standards. This has led to the development of value-added products.

Value addition can be as simple as presenting a commodity in a cleaned graded form, which would instil confidence in the consumers for its quality image. On the other hand, it can be a completely different product such as oil, oleoresins, etc. Apparent value addition by image building is a marketing strategy successfully adopted in this area. The value-added form of spices has become the area with tremendous growth potential. The global market is increasingly shifting away from the commodity form towards the value-added form of consumer-packed branded spices, which overcome the disadvantages of raw spices.

Spices in raw forms have certain disadvantages. Whole or ground spices do not impart their total flavour readily. They are bulky for storage and often unhygienic owing to bacterial contamination. The price fluctuations for commodities are also very high. Some of these defects can be reduced by extracting oils through steam distillation and by preparing oleoresins using organic solvents.

Coriander can be used as value-added form like other seed spices as volatile oil, oleoresin, ground spices, curry powder, consumer packed spices and organic spices.

9.8.1 Volatile oil

The volatile oil is aromatic and is primarily recovered from the dried ripe seeds. To produce the oil, the dried seeds are placed in stainless steel distillation vessels equipped with steam inlet, vapour outlet, condenser and separator assembly. Live steam is introduced below the charge; the steam rising through the plant charge carries the volatile oil. The volatile oil is condensed and separated from water. The advantages of using essential oil are that it has uniform flavour quality, is free from enzymes and tannins and does not impart colour to the end product.

9.8.2 Oleoresin

Oleoresin represents the complete flavour and non-volatile resinous fraction present in the spices. The resinous fraction comprises heat components, fixative, natural antioxidant and pigments. Hence, oleoresin is designated as the true essence of the coriander.

Oleoresin in coriander seeds is obtained by solvent extraction of the ground seed and is a brownish-yellow liquid with a fruity, aromatic, slightly balsamic flavour. Oleoresin from roasted seeds has a more rounded and slightly caramellic flavour. Volatile oil in the oleoresin ranges from 2 to 12 ml per 100 g.

In coriander the volatile oil is found only in very small quantities, therefore the volatile oil content and oleoresin make less of a contribution as a value addition than the others.

9.8.3 Ground spices

These are the whole spices milled to a certain degree of fineness required by the food processor. The grinding technique should be studied in more detail in order to evolve efficient methods to prevent changes with respect to flavour and pungency. Ground spices can be incorporated into food dishes more uniformly than can whole spices. In spite of these attributes they have limited shelf-life and are subject to oxidation, flavour loss and degradation on long storage owing to microbial contamination.

9.8.4 Curry powder

Curry powder is an indigenous seasoning made from various spices. The number of spices varies from 5 to 20 depending on the powder's end use. Various spices, namely turmeric, garlic, chillies, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and black pepper, constitute the raw materials used in quality curry powder. The ingredients of curry change according to different needs. The colour form and taste of various curries are in accordance with the customs of various nations and regions. Consumers all over the world demand different curry powders. The international trade in curry powder is around 9000 Mt per annum. The export trade in curry powder at present is dominated by India.

9.8.5 Consumer-packed spices

The exported spices are consumed in three main segments, namely industrial, institutional and retail. Different packaging media are used according to the consumer's preference. Packaging has gained considerable importance as it increases the shelf-life of spices. The development of new and improved plastic films, aluminium foil, laminations, high-speed film-sealing machines, etc. has created new opportunities for packaging the spices as instant spices, spice pastes and spice powder, etc. Exporting consumer packed spices can earn higher unit value for the same quantity. The prices of such retail spice packs are higher -between 50 and 100% as compared with prices of bulk spices. The weights of retail packs generally range between 30 g and 500 g. However, institutional packs range between 500 g and 1 kg in weight. It is important to note that, with the stiff competition that India is facing in the spice market, building brand image is essential, particularly in the packed spices.

9.8.6 Organic spices

With the trend towards pre-processed foods (convenience foods), the demand for organic spices is increasing. Organic agriculture has gained importance in modern societies. This had led to the development of international trade for organic spices. Europe, the USA and Japan are by far the largest markets, though there are smaller but interesting markets in many other countries, including a few developing countries. The importance of organic agriculture can be inferred from the fact that some European countries are supporting organic agriculture by giving subsidies for conversion. As a matter of fact, organic products are more expensive than the conventional counterparts and fetch a premium in the international market. Prices may be higher by 20-50% but gaining certification from recognized international agencies is a costly affair.

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