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The Modern Spice Shelf      
Until the early part of the 19th century, the world bought spices in the whole form only; the user did the milling. How far the spice shelf has come! Today, we have not only dried but freeze-dried spices, not only ground but custom milled spices and a wide selection of extractives. Moreover, a food processor can order spices in batch packs that supply a product's entire seasoning needs in a single pour. Here is a rundown of the types of spice products commonly offered to industrial customers today.
Whole Spices
These have simply been well cleaned and selected for their appearance, since they are usually meant to provide garnish as well as flavor. In the herbs, "whole" or "leaf" means un-ground, but except for bay leaves, not usually the whole, original leaf. Cleaning, processing arid packing reduces some leaves to smaller pieces because of their fragile nature.
Ground Spices
Grinding breaks down some of the protective cell structure of spices, making them ready to deliver flavor quicker and blend easily into a product. The finer the grind, the quicker and more complete the flavor release. On the other hand, coarse particles of spice gradually release their flavor during cooking and provide the ultimate flavor release when they are bitten into. The proper degree of milling is determined by the nature of the food product being spiced and the desired effect. In some, you may want visibility; in others the reverse.
Seasoning Blends
In industrial quantities, the spice customer can opt to have the supplier pre-blend the seasonings required in a product formulation (plus other related ingredients) and deliver it in either bulk or batch packs. The seasoning mix may be all ground spice, all extractives, or, a combination of both to take a the best traits of the various forms. For instance, ground spice for visibility, extractives for solubility, etc. Pre-blends eliminate the need for a spice mixing room in the food plant and utilize the specialized skills and equipment and quality controls that a good spice processor brings to the blending craft.

Batch Packs carry the pre-blend convenience one step further, reducing the risk of errors by production workers at the food company. Still another advantage of batch packs over bulk packaging is frequently overlooked: better uniformity in the blend itself. This is because the blended ingredients in a large container may tend to stratify during shipment, the heavier ones sifting down from the vibration. In effect, this can change the formulation when a scoop full is taken at random. While a good supplier can identify the tendency to stratify and reduce the effects, the batch pack negates the problem even if it occurs because the entire contents are emptied into the product mix.

Spice Extractives
A variety of natural spice extractive products have taken their place on the modern spice shelf for industrial users. Here is a brief rundown:

Essential Oils

The volatile aromatic fractions of a spice; usually derived by steam distillation. These are used in oil soluble systems for ketchup, mayonnaise, spaghetti sauces, salad dressings, etc. Also, to fortify and standardize oleoresins and other extractives and in spice blends.


Derived by a solvent-extraction of the whole spice. These include the volatile and non-volatile fractions. The solvents are later removed. Oleoresins may be used as is, combined with natural spices in a blend, or, used as a base for a number of different seasoning products as follows:

Liquid Solubles

Oleoresins to which solubilizing agents (Polysorbate 80, mono and diglycerides and water soluble gums) are added to create a liquid seasoning. Typical uses include pickling solutions, condiments, sauces and beverages.

Dry Solubles

Oleoresins are plated onto dry carriers such as dextrose, salt, flour and yeast. These products, which are available in varying strengths, are designed to be functional adjuncts or replacements for dried, ground spices.

Encapsulated Spices

Oleoresins are encapsulated by different techniques. The most common approach is spray drying, in which the extractive is mixed with a gum or starch, then sprayed into a hot chamber to flash off the water. In another technique, the extractive is placed in a heated carbohydrate mix, which is extruded into cold alcohol to solidify the particles. This is then heated to remove the alcohol. Encapsulated spices are especially suited to dry soup and salad dressing mixes, beverage powders and any products, which will be mixed with or reconstituted in water.

Standardized Oleoresins

Oleoresins to which additional essential oils and/or solubilizing agents are added to meet specific requirements.


(With Other Natural Flavors) Essential oils or oleoresins to which other natural flavoring materials are added to extend or enhance flavor. The WONF’s must characterize the lead flavor and their presence must be declared on labels. (Reference CFR 21, part 101.22)

The Modern Spice Shelf
Things to Consider When Buying Spices
Proper Storage and Handling of Spices
Spice Usage Ideas and Tips
Spices and Diet
The Spice Equivalent Chart
Spice Glossary


  CSA Spice Library information courtesy of The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA)  

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