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  • Tea, Spices, Infusion and Aromatic Herbs
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  • Tea, Spices, Infusion and Aromatic Herbs

    Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water. It derives from the tea plant “Camellia sinensis L. Kuntze” and is obtained by infusing the leaves. It is grown in more than 30 countries, but the largest production is concentrated in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Turkey. These countries represent about 80% of world production. Other tea producing countries include Indonesia, Japan, Tanzania, Cameroon, Vietnam and Argentina. Tea production is estimated at over 5,900,000 tonnes. Compared to other countries, the consumption of tea in Italy is very low (12 liters / year) per capita (value referring to the year 2018).
    Italians mainly drink tea at breakfast. The increasing popularity of tea is linked to its pleasant taste, the fact that it is easy to make and the social aspects that are linked to its consumption. Furthermore, the increased attention to living a healthy lifestyle and psychophysical well-being, which favours natural foods, has contributed to increasing consumers curiosity about tea. Black tea remains the favourite blend, but green tea has also become increasingly popular in recent years and has met with great success. This increasing attention to health and well-being is undoubtedly the main trend in consumer behaviour. A dynamic that is also confirmed by the growing importance of products with functional characteristics. The most important growth in tea consumption is recorded in consumers aged 25-40. Distribution in Italy mainly takes place in supermarkets (51.9% of volumes sold), as it does in France.
    There is an increasingly wider range of teas available in Italy. Consumers are learning that there is much more to tea and are always looking for special blends to enjoy at various times throughout the day. Of the various types of tea (classic, decaffeinated, green, fruity and white), black and green tea are the most consumed; sales of flavoured varieties are also increasing.

    Spices are generically indicating aromatic substances of vegetable origin (e.g. tarragon, thyme, lemon balm, juniper, maize, saffron) that are used to flavor and flavor food and drink, and, especially in the past, also used in medicine and pharmacy.
    Many of these substances have other uses, for example the preservation of food, or are used in religious rituals, cosmetics or perfumery: turmeric is also used in Ayurveda; licorice has medicinal properties; garlic is used as a vegetable in the kitchen.
    Among the various foods we eat, few have had such a fascinating and mysterious history as spices. The word spices derives from the Latin "species", a term that in addition to the original meaning "species" was assumed in the Middle Ages that of goods or foodstuffs. The search for spices has led to the discovery and conquest of continents and the foundation and destruction of empires. Spices were once as precious as gold, jealously guarded, and were considered a treasure of inestimable value. They were the "goods" par excellence, coming from the far East. Obtained from roots, cortexes, shoots, seeds and berries, they were used to flavor and store food, food, medicine, perfume and a thousand other uses. What are the spices today we know, but at one time they were above all a valuable "currency", competition for the control of their trade spawned wars and alliances, inspired great discoveries, and above all determined the strategic importance of commercial ports. New plantations were started in other French tropical colonies: the Seychelles, Reunion, Cayenne and Zanzibar. At the beginning of the 19th century, having no country with an exclusive monopoly on spices, prices began to fall and spices became less and less rare, and within the reach of many.
    Today spices come from many different countries, and after centuries of struggles to control their trade, they are in common use and readily available. However, they remain ingredients that are never trivial, and arouse increasing interest. The vitality and magic of these ancient aromas has been preserved over time, and makes even the simplest recipe special and refined.
    Each product has its own history, its own procedures, its own processing techniques. Once the hygienic and health suitability of the product has been established, the lot shall enter the establishment. Each incoming batch is entrusted with lot codes, which will identify it at every stage of the natural life of the product. Sensory control is the first evaluation that allows to identify the quality of raw materials.
    Taste, color, smell are carefully evaluated. In the later stages of processing, spices and herbs are screened and selected.
    Now the roads are divided: there are products that need grinding and products that can be used as such. Grinding is the most delicate part of the process of processing herbs and spices. The perfumes they give us are in fact due to the amount of essential oils present in the raw material.
    The mixings: aromas and flavors to be dosed with taste as they will be an integral part of the different productions.
    Packaging is no less important part of production. The product can be packaged in bags of various weights, plastic and Pet vases, glass. The weight varies, of course, from the volume of the packaged product. In the case of potted products, after dosing the product is capsuled, passed by the weight control, by the metal detector to avoid the risk of ferrous contamination and subsequently labeled. The labelling fully meets the current regulations concerning hygiene and health safety, the traceability of food and packaging, the technical specifications of the various products.

    Herbal and fruit infusions are among the most popular and appreciated beverages in the world, thanks to their almost limitless variety and complete range of flavours to suit every taste and every occasion. Infusions are made with plants or parts of plants which do not originate from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis L. Kuntze), and are intended for food use by brewing with freshly boiling water. They also include herbal and fruit infusions that contain a small amount of tea.
    The range includes both classic products made with parts of plants obtained from a single plant, for example peppermint, and blends of different herbs and/or fruit. There is also a wide range of blends to which flavourings have been added, or which are enriched with vitamins, for example. Up to 300 different plants and 400 parts of plants are used to make herbal and fruit infusions. The parts of the plant used is based on the presence of aromatic substances in the plant itself, for example the leaves of orange or peppermint plants, fruit like apples or rose hips, linden flowers or chamomile flowers. Chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita) are used to make infusions that are famous for their multiple benefits thanks to their active ingredients. The infusions of the different herbs/plants to be infused involve the use of the leaves and flowering tops of a single herb (single-component infusion) or several herbs (multicomponent infusions) chosen for their properties. The infusion time for chamomile tea and herbal infusions varies from 4/5 minutes to over 10 minutes. The ingredients which are authorised for use in herbal and fruit infusions are listed in the “Inventory List of Herbals Considered as Food” of the European association THIE (Tea & Herbal Infusions Europe). It is a dynamic segment that records positive trends year after year, characterised by an offer that responds to the health and wellness needs of increasingly attentive modern consumers, informed about what they buy and consume, who are looking for natural products. Infusions and chamomile tea are no longer limited to domestic use or consumption in wellness centres, but also extends to establishments such as bars, pubs and restaurants, where they are offered as an alternative to other drinks. Although they are increasingly drunk at various times of the day, they are still mainly consumed in the evening before going to sleep. Alongside traditional chamomile tea, there are now infusions made with lemon balm, passion flower, fennel, etc. The trend is growing and has become part of the practices related to people’s well-being and care. Consumers are evolving: they are more and more attentive to what they buy and sensitive to the production methods used by companies, the ingredients in the products, the effects of what they consume and the “ecological footprint” they leave.

    Total value of the tea, spices and herbal and fruit infusions

    In 2022, the tea, chamomile and infusions segment recorded a contraction in the volumes produced, which amounted to 2,644 filters (-6.1%) and a corresponding value of 260.5 million euros (-3.7). The market for these products is therefore worth 2.85 billion filters, with a turnover of 269 million euros. The market for spices/herbs also showed a turnover of € 196.6 million, with a similar decrease of -2.7%.

    Crisps and Snacks

    Crisps were invented over 160 years ago and have long been one of the most popular savoury snacks in the world. The classic crisp recipe has changed little over the decades, and although the process is now automated and on a much larger scale, crisps are still mostly made with fresh potatoes, sliced and fried in vegetable oils. It is well-known that crisps were first produced in 1853 by an American Indian chef, George Crum, who worked at the elegant Moon’s Lake House hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York. Railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was an extremely demanding customer, complained that his French fries had not been cut thinly enough and kept on sending them back to the kitchen. Upset that someone was criticising his cooking, Crum cut a new portion of wafer-thin potatoes, fried them in hot oil and then salted them.


    Companies are committed to promoting a balanced diet, also through a large variety of different products and by improving the taste and nutritional quality of their products. This is done through the reformulation of standard products and innovation to provide products with an increasing better nutritional composition. Companies provide consumers with nutritional information to help them make informed choices. They also promote healthy diets and lifestyles, for example by participating in and funding sports initiatives, educational programs and physical activity.

    In numbers

    In 2020 the continuous growth has rewarded indulgence products as a component of a satisfying and tasty diet. The market of savory chips and snacks, which in the year mentioned had seen an overall increase of 9.7% in volume compared to + 10.6% in value deriving almost exclusively from domestic consumption, closed 2021 with a quantity of 122,480 tons, an increase of 5.3% on the previous year, corresponding to a value of 943.8 million euros, an increase of 8.2%.



    Many other savoury snacks are produced with different methods. One of these is “extrusion”, which can be divided into two large families: direct and indirect.

    Direct extrusion
    Extruded direct expanded snacks (which come in various shapes, including that of corn curls, rings, balls) were invented in the United States in the early 1930s. They are made starting mainly from a mixture of flour and water. This mixture passes through an extrusion cylinder, inside which there is a worm screw that – as it screws – compresses the mixture, creating high pressure that causes the mixture to cook (if the mechanical energy is not sufficient, these machines can also use thermal energies such as steam or diathermic oils which finish cooking the starch). One of the characteristics of this technology is that the starch is completely cooked and therefore the product resulting from this process is ready to eat. The mixture then passes through a die plate at the end of the cylinder, which creates the final shapes. The excess water is then removed from the product (extruded) through a drying process that stabilises it and makes it possible to preserve for a long time. If the recipe calls for it, the product is seasoned and flavoured before being packaged.

    Indirect extrusion
    This technology is very similar to the previous one, differing only in the partial cooking of the starch in the extrusion stage. This process produces a product that, once dried, must be cooked with various methods (mainly frying and hot air expansion) before being consumed. The basic mix for these products can be much more “complex” than those used for direct expansion because a wider range of ingredients can be used (rice, potato flour, cereals, legumes, fruit, etc.). The shapes of the final product can also be varied (animals, geometric shapes, pasta shapes) and it is possible to produce (extrude) a sheet from which the product can be stamped out like regular biscuits. If the recipe calls for it, after the final cooking stage the products are flavoured and then ready to eat.


    These are made from ground corn mixed into dough, rolled in foil and cut into shapes, often triangles. They are toasted, lightly fried and flavoured to make golden, crispy corn chips. Baked snacks are made with potatoes, corn, wheat flour, or a mixture of these and other ingredients such as starch. Although “corn curls” can be called baked snacks, the latter term is generally used for products that are made from an extruded sheet of dough which is then cut and dried to produce a product that is lower in fat. A small amount of oil is usually added to the product before it is flavoured and packaged.


    These are salted dry biscuits, usually in the classic shape of a knot, made with pastry made from the finest wheat flour and baked in the oven. There are also other pretzel products, e.g. stuffed pretzels, pretzel pancakes, etc.


    Popcorn dates back to the ancient Inca and Peruvian civilizations in around 300 AD. Special varieties of corn are grown for making popcorn, which is classified as a “puff snack”. The raw corn kernels are cooked in the oven, causing them to explode (the corn kernel opening). The end product is ready to be consumed.

    Nut-based Snacks

    These are becoming more and more popular as consumers seek to make healthier food choices. In order to satisfy everyone’s tastes and preferences, the savoury snack industry is responding to consumer demand by offering a wide variety of options. Peanuts are by far the most popular snack. Native to South America, they made their way to Asia and then east across the Atlantic into North America. Peanut plants are believed to have appeared in South America in around 300 BC, and are now mainly grown in India, China, the United States, Africa and Argentina. Technically, the peanut is actually a legume, similar to beans.

    Peanuts were not consumed by humans until the Civil War in the United States, when troops from the North and South used it as a food source during hard times. In 1870, P.T. Barnum began serving hot roasted peanuts as a snack at his renowned circus. Peanuts were soon sold at all kinds of public events and in 1906 they fully entered the world of commercial snacks, when Amedo Obici, an Italian immigrant in the United States, developed a commercial oil roasting process for shelled peanuts.

    There are many other types of nut-based snacks, such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamias and Brazil nuts. It is widely recognised that the regular consumption of walnut can contribute to a healthy and balanced diet. Walnuts are an important source of nutrients, including dietary fibre, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium.



    Honey is the natural sweet substance produced by honeybees from the nectar or secretions of plants, which the bees collect and transform by combining them with specific substances of their own. The bees subsequently deposit, dehydrate, store and leave the honey to ripen and mature in the honeycombs. The result is “blossom honey or nectar honey”. Bees can also produce honey from the excretion of plant-sucking insects; in this case the product is called “honeydew honey”.


    For millennia, honey was the only natural sugary food available to ancient peoples, starting with the Hittites, from whom the term “melit” perhaps derives. A food that the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans considered extremely important for their well-being. Ayurvedic medicine was aware of its properties three thousand years ago, while the Ancient Egyptians were skilled beekeepers. Proof of this can be found in the bas-reliefs and wall paintings depicting men working with bees in numerous temples in the Nile valley. For the Egyptians honey wasn’t just a simple food, but the “food of the gods”. In Ancient Greece, Pythagoras suggested his followers eat honey because it would guarantee a long and healthy life, while the Romans imported large quantities of it from Cyprus, Spain and Malta. Like the Egyptians, the Ancient Romans used it many different ways: to sweeten food, to make honey wine (the famous hydromium), as a food preservative, and in numerous sweet and sour sauces. However, the most widespread use was for medicinal purposes, to cure, but also to prevent diseases. In the Middle Ages, Emperor Charlemagne forced every single peasant in his empire to raise bees: this is the moment in which human’s became beekeepers. With the discovery of the Americas, cane sugar arrived in Europe in large quantities, putting the honey industry in difficulty. It was only thanks to the curiosity of scientists in the 18th and 19th centuries that the “nectar of the gods” was not completely erased from the face of the Earth, and beekeepers slowly returned to producing it.


    It is commonplace to say that honey is made by bees, but this is only partly true because – while recognising the essential role played by bees – honey’s organoleptic properties are actually characterised by its botanical origin. In nature there are numerous varieties of honey, which differ in appearance, smell and flavour depending on the different characteristics of the various nectar plants. In practice there are two types of honey: monofloral honey, which comes from a single flower source (e.g. acacia, citrus, chestnut) and multifloral honey, also called wildflower honey, which is produced from countless combinations of flowers. Honey crystallization is a natural phenomenon that only alters its appearance and not the quality. It occurs in many honeys, with some exceptions (acacia, chestnut, honeydew honey).


    Honey is among the food products that are subject to specific European legislation. In fact, Council Directive 2001/110/EC defines the product that the term “honey” can be applied to, in particular providing for the obligation to respect a large number of compositional characteristics. The main varieties of honey are defined according to their botanical origin or their production method and/or appearance. Furthermore, the directive establishes that the origin of the honey must be included in the labelling. In Italy, the European directive was implemented with Legislative Decree no.179 of 21 May 2004, which, regards to indicating the geographical origin of the product, requires that the country of origin is indicated for all honeys packaged in Italy. This obligation also applies to honey mixtures, unlike that which is provided for by European legislation.


    Honey is considered a healthy food with nutritional, natural and healthy properties. Honey is mainly composed (78% - 80%) of simple sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose), water (about 18%), while the remaining part – which determines the beneficial properties – is represented by organic acids, proteins and free amino acids, mineral salts, vitamins, enzymes and other microelements. Honey has higher sweetening power than table sugar and less calories per gramme. Being a single ingredient product, it is optional for producers to include the nutritional table on the labels of their honey.

    In numbers

    Italians continue to have a positive image of honey, recognized as a healthy food, endowed with beneficial properties. In 2022, the decline in pre-packaged honey consumption (-5% by volume) was in line with that suffered by the food sector. Sales, on the other hand, rose by +3.7%. Thanks to the good performance of honey used as an ingredient in food products, the total turnover of the honey sector in 2022 is estimated at around 185 million euros (+5% compared to 2021). .


    Natural Sausage Casing

    Natural sausage casings ("natural casing") are made up of sections of the intestine, which are emptied, washed and treated (according to current health legislations), taken from animals deemed healthy by the ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections carried out at authorised EU slaughterhouses. The intestines of pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and horses are used. The part of the intestinal tract used defines the type of cured meat, giving it its characteristic shape.

    Natural, by choice

    Stuffing meats into natural casing is synonymous with quality. The natural casing enhances the natural flavour of the meat as it allows the mixture to breath better and interact better with the environment in which the meat is cured. It therefore guarantees the specific characteristics of the cured meat, according to the producer’s experience, skill, taste and needs. A natural casing reveals what has happened during the curing and maturing process: by looking at the noble-moulds that have formed on the casing, it is possible to see whether or not the product was cured correctly in order to produce an optimal product, in the name not only of quality, but also of tradition. It is an “intermediary” par excellence; a membrane that links the product to the production area – the terroir – with the typical richness of the flavours and the organoleptic characteristics. The added value of a cured meat stuffed in natural casing is not purely organoleptic. Another fundamental aspect is the indissoluble link to the tradition and culture of the production area’s “savoir faire”, bringing the history of a millenary tradition to our tables. Terroir means roots – cultural roots – a habitus toward food and wine that we all acquire in childhood, and which today is called “typical”, precisely to protect and defend the gastronomic culture that is characteristic of a given place.


    People started encasing meat in ancient times (about the 5th century BC) due to the need to preserve meat, when there were no alternative preservation methods to salting and curing. The name salume (Italian term for cured meat products) derives from the Latin etymology salumén, which refers to “a mixture of salted meats”. The meat was only stuffed into casings during the winter, taking advantage of the cold temperatures. Salting and curing made it possible to preserve the meat longer and have a supply throughout the year. A natural casing is a constituent and intrinsic part of cured meat products, which were invented precisely because of the discovery that it was possible to use various parts of the animal’s intestine to encase meat. The development of natural casings and the various production techniques then made it possible to transform this preservation technique into an art that was able to express sublime colours, aromas and flavours. The evolution of the recipes, right up to today, have fully respected this millenary tradition. And therefore, the production methods, different types of natural casings, recipes, spices and aromas have been passed down the generations, making it possible for producers to give cured meat products the shape, colour, aroma and flavour that are characteristic of the terroir of origin.

    Formore information


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