Discovering a world of ingredients in India
The CPL Dubai evaluation team recently visited one of our suppliers in Cochin, India, to learn about the various raw materials and specialist extractions produced there.
Plant Lipids is one of the largest producers of spice extracts, essential oils and natural food colourings in the world. With eight manufacturing facilities in Sri Lanka and India, Plant Lipids create a sustainable supply chain by working closely with farmers, investing in long-term trade relationships, promoting sustainable farming practices, conserving the environment, and conducting rigorous vendor quality management.
The black pepper that CPL source from Plant Lipids is Sri Lankan pepper, a particularly valued variety thanks to its high levels of piperine, the component in pepper responsible for its pungency. Black pepper is known as the ‘King of Spices’ – or ‘Black Gold’. Black pepper is used frequently to give a wonderful heat and dry spice character to a fragrance, with touches of citrus to the top and heart notes. It is an especially important ingredient in men’s fragrances, shower gels and warming woody home fragrances.
The Cochin site of Plant Lipids is where many spices are grown – the company have mastered the art of extracting spices and is a leading manufacturer of spice essential oils. In growing black pepper, Plant Lipids use living trees as support for the pepper vines, instead of concrete or wooden posts. These provide natural shade for the pepper, and contribute to soil fertility when they drop their leaves.
Plant Lipids manage the environmental impact of growing all ingredients with water and soil resource conservation and protection. They also create a sustainable supply chain, giving farmers prices for the raw materials and eliminating intermediaries, whilst also providing training modules and technical assistance. This means farmers learn sustainable farming techniques, enabling them to improve both their livelihoods and their output. This ensures that the product meets the expectations of the buyer – and it also means that their superb ingredients are fully-traceable.
Plant Lipids also have cardamom plantations in the outskirts of Munnar, India. The Cardamom plant is a leafy shoot that grows more than five feet and its flowering shoots (where the cardamom pod grows) are around one meter long, sprawling just above the ground. The matured cardamom pods are dried and processed onsite using a mechanical dryer, where they stay for twenty hours at 45°C.
The CPL Dubai team discovered the nutty, sweet and mildly-spiced scent of cardamom, extracted using the Supercritical CO2 extraction method, which is gentler than others and produces a pure, clean and high-quality extraction.
Other materials that Plant Lipids extract using this method include celery, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, curcuma, and ginger. The evaluators were introduced to a variety of ginger extractions and oils from Nigeria and Shimoga in India. In perfumery, ginger can be used in a variety of ways, being incorporated into gourmande notes for a gingerbread twist or added to citrus top notes for a crisp warming spicy hit. It also works well for oriental themes, but it can also be used in ethereal florals, giving a sparkling character.
“I was intrigued by the various extractions of cardamom, and how different each one smelt. It was by far my favourite raw material. It was an enticing and thought-provoking experience indeed. Thank you CPL for this training opportunity.” – Vaishali Doghare, Evaluator
Plant Lipids produce speciality extracts that capture the ‘green’ characteristics of fresh spices such as pepper, chili and ginger. These unique extracts are also used in conjunction with their technical expertise and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities to create encapsulated scents in spray-dry form. Plant Lipids are leaders in these micro-encapsulated products that find their application in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry worldwide.
The team had the chance to discover another important ingredient Plant Lipids produce: pink pepper, used as an accent in many modern compositions. Brazilian pink pepper in particular has a dusty, terpenic and slightly animalic odour profile. Pink pepper is obtained from the berries of the species Schinus molle and the related Schinus terebinthifolius, originally from South America.
In Plant Lipids’ spice plantations, pepper and cocoa are intercropped with the nutmeg trees, which are ready for harvesting at this time of year. When the fruit is ripe, it naturally cracks open to reveal the crimson-coloured aril, covering the nutmeg seed. This is known as Mace and is also used in cooking, but its spicy scent is more floral and delicate than nutmeg.
During the visit, the team were introduced to two other surprising scents: periploca oil, and evodia oil. Periploca has an odour profile reminiscent of almond, tonka, mimosa or orris, with fatty and powdery qualities, whilst evodia oil has aromatic and spicy facets, between sage, cardamom and neroli. The herbaceous quality of evodia can be used to give depth and sweetness to aromatic, woody and fougere fragrances.
“Our visit was an invaluable experience. We smelt a huge variety of raw materials. I personally liked the galbanum, which is very earthy and green as a material. We smelt Sumatran benzoin too, which was resinous, sweet and peppery – and the raw material, the gum, had a nuttier feel to it.” – Emmanuel Bibares, Evaluator
The visit to Plant Lipids also offered the evaluators the opportunity to compare ingredients from different regions – for example the orris root butters from China and Morocco. Orris, the root of the iris flower, is often reminiscent of suede, hay and carrot and is used in scents to impart a powdery softness. It can also be used to subtly support red fruit and chocolate accords and give a sophisticated element to both; it also adds a sensual aspect to musks, and volume to floral hearts, and in turn is capable of giving a subtle floralcy to sandalwood and cedarwood notes. Whilst the orris butter from China was powdery and suede-like, the Moroccan variety was reminiscent of leather, and had a deeper chocolate-like character.
“Orris has always been my favourite note in perfumery. Being able to touch, feel and smell the butter right after the distillation process was pure bliss! “ – Gina Sagaray, Evaluator
“I never knew orris root could smell that strong! My personal favorite was Peru Balsam, with its sweet vanilla and almond facets. It was an informative but also exciting learning experience.” – Aruna Rangaswamy, Fragrance Evaluator
The CPL Dubai evaluation team also explored Munnar, discovering the scent of the tea plantations that cover vast areas of the region. Strawberries – used for making jams and also wines – are cultivated in this area too, using a terrace farming method that is well-known in the hilly areas of India.