March 2, 2020 [New Delhi]: Recently, when the FDA US published the safety alert status for a famous Indian brand’s Sambar Masala due to salmonella contamination, industry experts were taken aback. For some time, it has been assumed that the Indian stronghold on the international spice market stands unchallenged. However, emerging trends suggest something else—purity is grabbing the spotlight for retail purchasers and in overseas markets. Now, Chuk-De is raising the benchmarks for packaged spices, across various categories, for domestic consumption and exports with a 360° quality control process.
From 2018 to 19, the top 10 exported spices/spice products from India were chilly, mint products, spice oils & oleoresins, cumin, turmeric, pepper, curry powder/paste, cardamom seeds, and spices like tamarind, asafetida, cassia, & garlic. Nearly 1.10 million tons, at nearly US$ 2.80 billion were exported with a CAGR of nearly 7% year-on-year
Chuk-De’s efforts have been engaging the spotlight because, despite India’s share of nearly $5 billion in the annual $18 billion spice industry for 2020, concerns about spice contamination have been growing at an unprecedented rate. The Indian spice industry has been plagued by product recalls, surprisingly in the domestic market too apart from the global marketplace. Spice exports from India have suffered rejects from the US, Japan, the EU, and Australia.
According to the International Organization for Standardization, globally, around 109 spices are produced and among these, 75 listed spices are produced by India!
To tackle this problem, the FSSAI created standards for Masala Mixes in 2011 - Food Products Standards and Food Additives Regulations. More recently, the nation roped-in an international organization to curb spice contamination. This means collaborating Geneva-based Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF).
“Cleaning, grading, gravity separation, destoning, and color sorting are some of the features we strictly follow to clean these spices. We do not stop at this. Our team of experts carefully inspects each lot to identify any contamination or the smallest traces of impurity.” said Deepak Luthra, Chairman, Chuk De Spices.
Mixed Masala (whole) remains a growth-heavy category. Ideally, the contents should be a blend of clean herbs and spices. Current marketplace standards for purity clarifies that dried vegetables or fruits, garlic, ginger, poppy seeds, oilseeds, and curry leaves can be included. But market surveys suggest the presence of artificial coloring compounds and contaminants like residues of insect infestation and mold growth. Existing regulations for retailed spices also put a limitation on the percentage [by weight] of extraneous matter and organic matter that can be a part of the Mixed Masala. However, across some nationwide-popular spice brands and among spices sold loose, contaminants like sand, husk, dung, and harmful colors are easy to find.
However, the niche of packaged spices is witnessing a paradigm shift in how consumers are getting more curious about the purity of spices. Today, more companies are advertising their quality-conscious approach. However, there is also widespread speculation if the hygiene protocols are followed. This is why Chuk De (Lifestyle Foods Pvt. Ltd.) has created more transparency for its quality standards. This means decreasing human intervention and increasing mechanization. As an ISO 9001 and 22000 registered organization, Lifestyle Foods ensures the entire process, from raw material procurement to packaging does not overlook the quality standards at any stage. Further, FSMS667625 certification for Food Safety Management Systems and stringently following Halal benchmarks remain unmatched in the contemporary spice processing industry.
“Utmost care is taken to check the hygienic condition of each worker before they enter the factory premises. All the floors and routines are fumigated and cleaned at the end of the day to decrease the microbial loads in the air,” said Deepa Luthra, Chairman, Chuk De Spices.
Indian spice exporters have been trying to find a way around such issues. This includes directing spice exports towards the Middle East since this region often has easier-to-meet purity parameters. But then, the profit margins here are lesser too. Invariably, the focus will return to ensuring purer spices, for domestic and global consumption—something Chuk De is already doing and plans to project as the big differentiator!
About Chuk De
Chuk De is a family-owned & operated business. The company founded Chuk-De as specialist spice label that represents its passion for Quality Produce, Genuine Products & Wholesome Goodness. With a mission to sustain the cultural richness & diversity associated with real spices, Chuk De upholds standards for purity, social impact & customer satisfaction across its product chain. Chuk De now covers a wider spectrum of spices, ranging from Whole Spices, Pure Spices, and Blended Spices, to ready to Cook Spices & Spice Mixes.
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