Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Herb and Spice Forms

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Herb and Spice Forms

Postby vagreys » Mon May 21, 2012 11:18 am

Periodically, there is speculation, here, about why commercial producers use a particular spice form. Mostly, it has to do with decisions regarding easy, efficient and compact storage, consistency, purity, safety and flavor for cost. I thought I would offer a fairly good comparison of some advantages and disadvantages of various forms of spices, some of which are not available to the home sausage maker, but still revealing about the qualities considered in the food industry. This list is adapted from Kenneth T. Farrell, Spices, Condiments and Seasonings, 2nd ed., New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1985, pp. 271-275.

Fresh Spices

  • Slow flavor release in high-temperature processing.
  • Easy to weigh and handle.
  • No particular labeling problems.
  • Bulk of weight is devoid of aroma and flavor.
  • Variable flavor quality and strength, depending on age, source, and storage conditions.
  • Presence of tannins could discolor some manufactured products.
  • Dried herbaceous spices develop off-flavors and aromas.
  • Loss of volatile oils or constituents, particularly in ground spices, within days or weeks.
  • Easily adulterated with exhausted material or inferior spices.
  • Subject to contamination at source, in transport, and in storage.
  • More warehouse facilities required for storage.
  • Warehouse, plant, and offices contaminated with spice dust during grinding operations.
  • Some spices have extremely high bacteria counts.
  • Ground spices may contribute undesirable specs in finished products.
  • Poor flavor-distribution results in some finished products.
  • Even "sterilized" spices contain the remains of dead insects, larvae, or eggs.

Essential Oils of Spices

  • Uniform, standardized flavor, consistent with source of raw material.
  • Free from enzymes, tannins, bacteria, and filth.
  • Does not contribute moisture to final product.
  • Does not contribute color significantly to final product.
  • Good storage stability under normal storage conditions.
  • Loss of volatiles under high-temperature processing conditions.
  • Flavor and aroma is not completely typical of the natural spice.
  • Readily adulterated or sophisticated.
  • Some oils are readily oxidized.
  • Naturally occurring antioxidants have been removed in processing.
  • Not easily dispersable on dry edible carriers.
  • Very concentrated, making them difficult to handle and weigh accurately.

Oleoresins of Spices

  • Uniform, standardized, complete flavor, equal to natural spice.
  • Hygienic, free of bacteria, filth, and other contaminants.
  • Free from enzymes and contain natural antioxidants.
  • More complete, full-bodied flavor than comparable essential oil.
  • Approximately 50% lower in cost than corresponding spice on a flavor/cost basis.
  • Low moisture content.
  • Long shelf life under normal and semi-adverse conditions.
  • Losses from volatilization of essential oils minimized due to presence of resins.
  • Less warehouse space required to store equivalent amount of natural spice flavor.
  • Highly concentrated and sometimes quite viscous, making them difficult to weigh accurately.
  • Because of their viscous nature, some of the material may be left in the original containers and subsequently lost.
  • Flavor affected by source and quality of raw material, which may not be the same source as that of the spice it is intended to replace.
  • Some tannins may be present unless treated for their removal.
  • Possibility exists for solvent contamination unless very carefully controlled at the source of manufacture.
  • All oleoresins do not have the same viscosity and each must be handled quite differently to avoid "hot spots" in the seasonings.


  • Uniform, standardized flavor, consistent with source of raw material.
  • Free from tannins, enzymes, bacteria, and filth.
  • Relatively low moisture content.
  • Complete well-rounded flavor of spice from which it was derived.
  • Better adapted for liquid seasonings.
  • Less viscous than some oleoresins, generally uniform viscosity for different spices.
  • Complete compatibility with all other aquaresins.
  • Easier to weigh and handle than some oleoresins.
  • Easily dispersable in water, brine and syrups.
  • Spice equivalency about 50% lower than oleoresins; thus, higher in cost per pound of flavor solids.
  • Possibility of solvent contamination unless very carefully controlled.
  • Some tannins may be present unless treated for their removal.
  • Flavor affected by source and quality of raw material, which may not be the same source as that of the spice it is intended to replace.

Encapsulated Spice Oils or Oleoresins

  • Flavor protected from losses in strength over long storage periods.
  • Free-flowing and easily weighed, handled, and mixed.
  • Free of enzymes, tannins, bacteria, and filth.
  • Easy to incorporate into dry mixes.
  • Free of salt, dextrose, and other fillers, except starches and/or gums used to encapsulate the oils or oleoresins.
  • Non-hygroscopic with good storage stability.
  • Very expensive, contains only about 20% essential oil or oleoresin; therefore, only 20% as potent.
  • Not appropriate for liquid or baked products.
  • Could result possibly in a layering effect, or separation from the mix, if all ingredients are not uniform in particle size.

Dry Soluble Spices

  • Standardized color and flavor quality.
  • Free from enzymes, filth, adulteration, impurities, and other contaminants.
  • Easily weighed and handled without difficulty.
  • Readily dispersed in food seasonings or food products.
  • Free of off-color food specks or sediment.
  • Low moisture content.
  • Contain natural antioxidants.
  • Commercially sterile.
  • Approximately 30% or more lower in cost than corresponding spice.
  • Immediate flavor impact.
  • More uniform seasonings at reasonably stabilized prices, not subject as much to the wide weekly fluctuation of the world market prices for spices.
  • Do not contribute unwanted and undesirable spice specks or color to the end product.
  • When desired contribute uniform color to the finished product, as when oleoresin of paprika is used.
  • Free from dust in handling.
  • Loss of some volatiles in long storage at high temperatures.
  • Tendency to "cake" unless protected with anti-caking agents.
  • Allowances must be made in final formulations for the carrier used in dispersing the oils and oleoresins, i.e., salt, dextrose.
  • Some are not resistant to high temperature processing, as in open kettle cooking.
- tom

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