Natural and authentic taste solutions: (Part 2) Challenges in citrus supply

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09 Nov 2017 --- Back in September, and in less than twenty-four hours, Hurricane Irma winds ripped through a promising Florida citrus crop taking as much as 75 percent of the fruit from the trees.  Florida is the world's second-largest orange juice producer, behind Brazil and Florida's citrus industry was already struggling with declining production because of citrus greening, an incurable disease spread by an insect that impairs trees' circulation and nutrition.

Irma caused widespread damage across Florida citrus-growing region, according to Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Lakeland-base Florida Citrus Mutual, the growers’ trade group.

Meadows estimated fruit losses at 20 to 50 percent, depending upon location. But the storm affected the state’s top five citrus growing counties – Polk, Hendry, Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto – which together account for most of Florida’s orange production.

Brazil is expected to have a major crop this year, which would provide a buffer to what might have been lost during this time. Click to EnlargeBrazilian fresh orange production is forecast at 471 million boxes, up from 352 million in 2016-2017 and the highest total since 2012-2013.

Similar to vanilla, citrus crops tend to experience supply issues, too. 

“Rooted on our own fruit processing operations (in Egypt and Spain) and our essential oils & essences processing in Brazil, Germany and the US, Doehler is a very well experienced company which makes us to one of the leaders in natural citrus ingredients - both in terms of the volumes we process every year as well as in terms of being on-site and processing in various geographic regions around the world,” Erlon Pereira, Head of Business Unit Flavours at Doehler tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“This true backward integration from grove to glass provides total transparency and traceability, enabling us to work with the freshest raw materials possible. Doehler extracts the most delicate and important substances from citrus raw materials in a very efficient way and this provides flavorists around the globe with a very flexible and superior toolbox of raw materials and specialties which enable them to create the best citrus solutions for their customers,” explains Pereira.

“Besides the ‘classics’ such as orange, lemon and lime, each being among the all-time favorites, we see at least two major trends when it comes to citrus.” He notes: “Specific varietals or specific ‘provenances’ and ‘new & exotic’ tastes that are gaining popularity in different parts of the globe.”

“We see growing demand for citrus solutions that relate to a specific variety or geographical origin. Consumers (especially millennials) are becoming more critical and are demanding greater authenticity. They also want to know where their food comes from: which country? Which region? Is it sustainably produced? Consumers are also paying more attention to new and exotic experiences while looking for taste experiences that are truly unique,” he states. 

According to Pereira, Doehler has a very broad portfolio of raw materials and partners in different parts of the world, providing access to different locations, countries and types of citrus fruits.

Givaudan
Also speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Marissa Barnes, Global Marketing Head Sweet, Givaudan said: “Citrus has been a favorite in beverages for decades and its popularity hasn’t diminished but globalization means that consumers have more exposure and curiosity about citrus varieties that may not be common in their region.”

“For example, kumquats are common in China, but consumers in the US and Europe finds them exotic. In the Middle East the combination of lemon with herbs, like mint, and orange with spices, like ginger, have been developing favorably in the last few years. Despite these regional preferences, people all over the world enjoy the fresh and refreshing characteristics citrus delivers,” she explains. 

Partnering with world-renowned citrus groves has enabled Givaudan to continuously discover new citrus ingredients and varietals. Their TasteTrek Citrus program is a great source of inspiration to flavorists and their customers, providing first-hand access to fruit in the grove, and not just commercially available varieties, but rare and exotic ones too. 

Citrus agriculture has been in the news for years now as it faces a long list of challenges – weather, disease, changing land economics and decreased demand for 100 percent juice products. “Most recently, hurricane Irma hit Florida and impacted 70 percent of citrus production.  Fortunately, Brazil is on track for a solid crop and that will help balance supply,” notes Barnes.  

Givaudan is a long time participant in the citrus market. “When facing volatility, experience counts,” she states. Achieving Click to Enlarge sustainable citrus at Givaudan means a commitment to source, innovate and formulate responsibly and resourcefully.

“Givaudan is a responsible consumer of citrus products.  Our flavorists are trained to get the maximum benefit out of the materials that we use, so we aren’t using what we don’t need.  We source our citrus from across the globe and stay very close to those who actually grow the trees so that we are informed consumers and can mitigate market volatility when it arises.”  

On the innovation front, Givaudan has used advanced analytical methods to create natural citrus ingredient replacers and extenders. These ingredients, which they call SunThesis products, help Givaudan build sustainability into flavors because they start with the most readily available raw materials. SunThesis leverages unique processing techniques so that the resulting product functions and tastes like original citrus oils.

“We are helping to secure the future of citrus by supporting biodiversity and building sustainability into our citrus flavors,” states Barnes. “For example, our US$1 Million donation to University of California Riverside (UCR), has established the Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection (CVC) Endowed Chair which will help support and maintain the Citrus Variety Collection in perpetuity.”

Citrus trees are prone to disease and UCR studies plant traits, diseases & pathogens which ultimately helps growers to better manage diseases and improve production. 

“We believe that a stable citrus industry is good for consumers and our customers. The more people see the value in citrus biodiversity and citrus research, and support those goals, the better,” she adds.

According to Barnes, orange remains the most versatile and sought-after citrus flavor, but regional nuances are more important than the wide categories of orange, lemon or lime. “In the Middle East, orange and lemon remain the citrus icons due to zesty freshness required by consumers. However, consumers demand different varieties of orange and lemon profiles like juicy, peely, fruity and sweet,” notes Barnes. 

“Beyond preferred citrus varietals, consumer purchasing decisions are increasingly driven by a desire for all natural ingredients and clear labels,” she comments.  

“One clear trend is that consumers associate naturalness with more than just health & well-being, but also social values, such as more authentic lifestyle and the perception of rarity, premium and luxury. The trend is likely to increase the already growing demand for natural ingredients.” 

“The beverage sector has the biggest use for citrus flavors,” confirms Barnes. “Within beverages, hydration is an important area of growth. These products have their origins in sports drinks, but today consumers choose products for their hydration benefits across a range of formats. Citrus profiles partner well across the hydration spectrum, because the right citrus profile can add refreshment and even indulgence.”

Going into next year, Givaudan expects a fruit called Millsweet Limetta to be popular within the citrus space. “It has a really unusual pepper note in it,” explains Barnes. “The first time we put our finger on that, it was pretty exciting,” she claims. “A finished product might never advertise that it has a Millsweet Limetta profile or that it is lemon with a light pepper kick, but when you taste it in nature and realize how well it works, it gets everyone thinking out of the box.”  

“Citrus is always popular, and the right citrus profile is one that tailored to our customers’ brands.  We know that millennials value unique experiences and authenticity, so we will continue to expose our customers to the exotic citrus profiles that we collect from around the world. As consumers seek a connection to their food, we also see an opportunity to bring the story of unique citrus varieties to life in our flavors,” Barnes finalizes.

You can read the first part of this report here.

By Elizabeth Green

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