Rosemary extract sees ‘substantial growth’ in shelf extension

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Kemin rosemary plants
Kemin rosemary plants

Related tags: Sustainability

As manufacturers and consumers alike continue to call for clean-label preservatives, natural options like rosemary extract are gaining traction in the market as a safe, effective alternative to synthetic shelf life extenders like BHA, BHT and the antioxidant TBHQ, though the cost of switching is a “whole company-type of decision,” according to nutritional ingredient supplier Kemin. 

We’re seeing substantial growth in the number of people using rosemary, mostly because of the clean label aspect and because it’s very effective. It’s definitely becoming an ingredient standard for shelf life in meats, especially,​ Justin Green, PhD and global product manager at Kemin, which produces rosemary extract, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Already lauded for its shelf life-extending abilities in fats, oils and meat products because of the carnosic-rich acid found in rosemary, lipid-soluble rosemary extract also continues to gain popularity in the bakery, personal care, pet food and dietary supplement categories. Although there aren’t many specific formulation challenges when switching from a synthetic to a natural preservative, there are some challenges and reformulations required.

“As with any ingredient change, manufacturers may find specific ingredients to change the flavor profiles of their products a little more than synthetic,”​ Green said.

“But overall, the biggest challenge with regard to switching is cost: The cost of a natural is typically higher than the cost of a synthetic, but people wanting to switch know that already. It’s a whole company-type of decision. So R&D needs to know the ingredient is advantageous, marketing needs to know claims like clean label, purchasing needs to know it’s well worth the extra cost, regulatory people need to know everything is compliant.”

Rosemary extract is becoming an ingredient standard for increasing shelf life in meats, especially

But that’s where being vertically integrated helps, noted marketing communications specialist Courtney Schwartz. Controlling the entire process allows us to control cost more than others so although natural ingredients come at a higher price than most synthetics, it isn't always substantial,”​ she said.

Kemin also hopes to be differentiated by its recent sustainability certification. More than half of Kemin’s rosemary production has been certified as sustainably grown following a third-party audit by SCS Global Services. The remaining fields are scheduled to be certified before the 2014 cropping season.

There are other people manufacturing rosemary, but no one else is farming it like we do

Kemin also is one of the most vertically integrated rosemary suppliers, controlling rosemary down to individual plants.

“There are other people manufacturing rosemary, but no one else is farming it like we do​,” Schwartz said. “There are no standards in place for rosemary specifically. Many suppliers are going to hillsides in the Mediterranean and clear cutting it.”

This also helps with consistency, as the supplier used natural breeding techniques—such as bee pollination—over several years to create 1,200 acres of identical rosemary plants.

Although the firm isn’t certain whether standardization for rosemary farming will follow, Green says it’s nice to be on the cutting edge of the sustainable sourcing trend.

"It used to be ‘organic’ that everyone cared about and wanted to prove," ​he said. 

"Now ‘sustainability’ seems to be the buzzword and it is likely that people are going to start searching for ways that it can be proven. Third-party certification is one way to do that. A primary reason that food producers are switching to natural extracts like rosemary is to show they are using ingredients that are natural. It stands to reason that the source of such an ingredient should be traceable and produced in a sustainable manner."​ 

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