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“There’s nothing new in orange oil that wasn’t there 100 years ago,” says Daemmon Reeve, senior purchasing and business manager at Treatt plc. “An essential oil is an essential oil.” Except when it’s not. Today, technology and R&D advances are allowing ingredient producers to discover and extract key and/or unwanted molecules from oils at increasingly lower levels—at economically viable levels. As Reeve puts it, “We’re constantly looking to innovate, looking in the oils again to see if we can bring out some unique ingredients for our customers.”
While the world boasts hundreds of varieties of citrus, few are processed for their essential oil. “Unless you’re producing fruit for the oil and the juice, it’s often not economically viable,” says Reeve. “It takes three or four years for any citrus tree to establish commercial volumes of fruit. There’s a persuasion factor as well in terms of getting farmers to commit to unusual varieties. Often, by the time they do it, the demand may have subsided. Certainly there’s interest [in new and novel citrus varieties], but mostly they’re from marketers.”
Yet, he says, “Our customers are looking for something new. [Consumer] product life cycles have gotten much shorter these days, and flavor houses are looking for true innovation—different exotic fruits and things like that. Citrus would come into that.” Unfortunately, he concludes, “The life cycle of citrus doesn’t lend itself to the development of some kind of new Japanese or African citrus fruit.”
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