Mint holds promise for new food and beverage applications
Mint is showing promising growth as a botanical ingredient in more foods and beverages, particularly in combination with chocolate, floral or citrus flavors, according to Food Ingredients First.
The herb has increasing potential for inclusion in alcoholic drinks, confectionary, desserts, hot drinks, cereal bars, juices and dressings, Juan Mejia, Firmenich's global mint business development director, told the publication.
While mint has traditionally been used in gum and other breath-freshening applications, the global market for gum has slowed down somewhat and might not recover, Mejia said.
Mint flavors — particularly spearmint and peppermint — typically show up in beverages such as mojitos and mint juleps since they're strongly associated with refreshment. Mint also has long been a popular flavor in gum, candy, ice cream and tea. As applications gain traction with consumers, mint could enjoy an ever-increasing presence in the food and beverage industry.
Mint also has a reputation for relieving stomach distress, headaches and migraines, clogged sinuses, cramps and infections, plus it may improve both energy levels and sleep. These functional assets could prove valuable for products containing mint if they're advertised on packaging and in marketing materials.
In addition, as consumers increasingly look to their food to provide not only the sustenance they need but to offer health benefits at the same time, mint could be one of the ingredients food manufacturers embrace. To be sure, mint has a strong taste that isn't loved by everyone, so its reach could be limited from the beginning by some shoppers.
The U.S. is one of the world's major mint producers, with 22,300 acres planted in 2017, according to Farm Progress. Most of the mint crop is grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho after a soilborne fungus began decimating production in the Midwest in the 1920s. Mars Wrigley Confectionery, which produces both gum and mints, is helping farmers of the crop reduce environmental problems and risk through a sustainability plan.
Most of the U.S. mint harvest is distilled into oil for ingredient uses such as gum, chocolate, toothpaste and cleaning supplies. Demand has been increasing as citrus greening disease has dramatically limited how many citrus peels are available to make citrus oil, Farm Progress noted.
Even though the global gum market has declined, gum sales in the U.S. were up last year over 2017, according to Packaged Facts. Consumers had been turning to mints and flavored chews in the past few years instead of gum products, research found.
This combination of developments indicates a rosy future for mint, as long as farmers can get a handle on the pest problem and consumers continue to appreciate its refreshing and breath-freshening qualities. The herb's health profile, its adaptability to a range of uses and its popularity as a flavor all play into increasing consumer demand for its presence in foods and beverages.
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