Herb-infused oils enter US market as functional flavors

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food manufacturers

A new line of fresh herb-infused oils has been introduced into the
North American market, designed to add flavor and functionality to
a number of processed foods, including dressings, snacks and meat
products.

Manufactured by UK firm SpringThyme Oils, the line comprises around 60 different products, and has been available on the other side of the Atlantic for the past decade.

According to the firm, it is now turning to the North American market, where it is looking to duplicate the success its products have seen in the UK. There, sales have "risen dramatically"​ in the past few years, driven on by the line's most popular products: basil, chili, garlic and lemon.

The biggest applications for the oils are dressings, dips and marinades, although they are also gaining mounting popularity in meat and poultry applications, where they can be injected into the brine to add flavor and as well as moisture.

Other applications include nuts and snacks, which can be sprayed with the oils before being cooked, as well as pastes, sauces and crumb coatings.

The intensely flavored ingredients are created by permeating edible oils such as olive oil and sunflower oil with fresh herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits, using SpringThyme's proprietary HTST (high temperature short time) process. Once the oil and herb mixture has been pasteurized, it is filtered off to remove solid particles, leaving smooth, aromatic oil, said the firm.

This provides food manufacturers with a dual benefit: the functionalities of oil as well as a desired flavor. And according to the firm's sales and marketing director Ken Williams, the flavor obtained from the fresh herbs is far superior to that from added flavors.

"We have looked at putting flavors into the oils, but you just don't get the same natural, authentic flavor,"​ he said.

The oils are marketed as being 100 percent natural, containing only oil and herbs and spices, with no additives or preservatives.

SpringThyme first introduced its products in the UK in the 1990s, as an end product for retailer Marks & Spencer. They were then picked up by food manufacturers supplying the chain with own-name branded goods, and then expanded into general use in food processing.

The firm now claims to be the European market leader in the production of infused oils.

In the UK, basil oil remains the company's most popular product, making up around 60 percent of its total sales. Chili oil comes next, totaling 15 percent of sales, garlic oil stands at 10 percent and lemon oil at 5 percent. Other infusions, such as coriander, rosemary, thyme and jalapeno remain relatively niche products, although the company is optimistic about their potential.

"We will actively be trying to promote these smaller products, as they have great flavor delivery. Ironically, it is these products that have the best and most intense flavors, even though they are not the best sellers,"​ Williams told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

The company also has a line of organic alternatives, which is currently made up of around 10 products. Although this includes organic versions of the company's most successful flavors, limitations in sourcing ingredients has made it difficult to expand the line as far and as fast as the company would have liked.

In North America, the company is primarily focusing on targeting food manufacturers with its ingredients, although it will also be open to supplying at retail and foodservice levels.

The products, which are marketed here through Clay White Associates, have already received "phenomenal"​ interest, according to Clay White.

The firm also plans to develop additional products designed specifically for the US market. These will include infusions targeting the growing ethnic market, such as flavors for Hispanic and Mexican tastes. They will include a variety of pepper flavors, for example serrano, habanero, Anaheim and chilaca.

For more information click here​.

Related topics: Ingredients

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