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The European market potential for curcuma longa (turmeric)

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The trend of healthier diets is likely to remain the leading driver of food market developments in the next decades. This trend will positively impact demand for spices such as curcuma. In terms of leading European destinations, the United Kingdom will remain the main market for Curcuma longa by a long way. 1.4 million Indians, 1.1 million Pakistani, and 450,000 Bangladeshi live in the United Kingdom, and they traditionally eat an important amount of curry with curcuma as primary ingredient.

1. Product description

Curcuma longa (also known as turmeric) is a plant native to southern Asia, where it is widely cultivated. The plant is now also cultivated in the Americas. Curcuma longa production takes place in the following countries:

•     India
•     Pakistan
•     China
•     Haiti
•     Jamaica
•     Peru
•     Taiwan
•     Thailand
•     Indonesia
•     Madagascar

The roots and rhizomes (underground stems of the plant from which the roots grow) of Curcuma longa are used in the following areas:

•     Food and drinks (as a spice and as food additive for colour and flavour)
•     Cosmetics
•     Health products

Curcuma longa is available as several types of products on the European market. Food-grade powder (which has about 60-80 mesh particle size), powder capsules and high-potency tablets are the most common. Fresh turmeric rhizomes (Fresh curcuma) are also on the market for use in cooking.

Rhizomes are collected, boiled, dried and ground to make a yellow crude powder. This powder is also used to create an extract, which can be standardised on certain curcumin content, usually 93 95%. Such extractions can be encapsulated to create capsules, or tableted to produce tablets.

High-potency curcuma extract tablets often contain piperine (black pepper extract) to improve the bio availability of the curcuma.

Since curcuminoids, the colour components of Curcuma longa, deteriorate with light, it is important that ground turmeric and products such as capsules and tablets are packed in a UV protective packaging and stored appropriately.

This study focuses on food-grade Curcuma longa predominantly applied as a food or culinary ingredient. Curcuma powder is a major ingredient in curry powders and pastes. It is also frequently used to colour and flavour mustard, cheese, processed meats, processed potato products, chicken bouillon and soups, sauces, gravies, dry seasonings and others. Within the Combined Nomenclature (CN) classification, curcuma is covered under the code 0910.3000: Turmeric “curcuma”.

Where this study refers to ‘Europe’, this should be understood to include the 27 member states of the European Union, plus the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway.

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2. What makes Europe an interesting market for curcuma longa?

Worldwide and also in Europe, the consumption of curcuma is forecast to increase by more than 10% per year in the next 5 years, in particular driven by the health benefits associated with curcuma. Europe is good for one-fifth of the market, after North America. The growing curcuma market in Europe provides opportunities for exporters.

In 2020, European imports of curcuma totalled 33 thousand tonnes. From 2019 to 2020, imports increased by 17% in volume and by 13% in value, with a total value of over €64 million.

In 2020, 80% of the total European imports were sourced directly from developing countries. Please note that Figure 1 below excludes countries other than European or developing countries, as that category of countries doesn’t play a role in European trade.

Since curcuma cannot be produced in Europe, the European supplies illustrated in Figure 1 are all re-exports of curcuma originally coming from developing countries. European re-exports accounted for 20% of the total imports in 2020.

Because Curcuma longa does not grow in Europe, demand must be met by imports. Figure 2 gives an overview of leading importing countries of Curcuma longa in Europe.

3. Which European countries offer the most opportunities for Curcuma longa?

In 2020, the United Kingdom remained Europe’s main market for curcuma, accounting for 32% of all imports, followed by the Netherlands (20%), Germany (17%), France (7%), Spain (7%), and Poland (4%). The applications in all of these countries are more or less the same. The key reason why the UK is the #1 importer, is the fact that the largest diaspora of South Asians lives in the UK. South Asians are used to eating curries in which curcuma is a key ingredient. The Netherlands’ second position in terms of imports is mainly due to the country’s role as a spice trader  within Europe. This is reflected in the rise of Dutch exports of curcuma longa, which grew an average of 12% each year between 2016 and 2020. Germany ranks number three due to its market size and consumer behaviour. Germany is one of the largest food markets in Europe and, on top of that, two important trends affecting the consumption of curcuma longa are very pronounced in this market. On the one hand, consumers are increasingly interested in buying healthy products, and on the other hand, the consumption of ethnic foods, like curries, is growing.

Smaller countries representing less than 5% of the European market, but that were fast-growing importers of curcuma longa between 2016 to 2020, include:

  • Austria (market share: 1.9%; growth 18%)
  • Switzerland (1.0% / 11%)

The United Kingdom: driving the traditional market for curcuma in Europe

The United Kingdom is the largest market for curcuma in Europe. The reason is simple: the United Kingdom has the largest diaspora of South Asians in Europe. The country is home to 1.4 million Indians, 1.1 million Pakistani, and 450,000 Bangladeshi. Curcuma is a fundamental ingredient in traditional dishes from these countries, including curries and other spicy food preparations. Consumers belonging to these ethnic groups prefer to eat traditional dishes they cook themselves, to which they add a lot of spices and spice blends.  Although innovation in terms of ready meals etc. has also found inroads in the ethnic food market, spice mixes and pastes take a considerable share in this segment.

In the United Kingdom there is a good supply chain of products from South Asian origin destined for the ethnic South Asian population, developed by South Asian entrepreneurs. This is also valid for spices from India, among which is Curcuma longa. Most of the curcuma is blended with other spices to make curry mixes and pastes and sold as such in supermarkets. Stand-alone curcuma powders are also available in the retail market for consumers who wish to create their own spice mixes.  

As Figure 2 shows, the United Kingdom’s curcuma imports grew 17% in 2020. This positive development reflects the increasing popularity of curcuma longa as a food ingredient, but also as a supplement. On one hand, the use of curcuma longa in food preparations like curries, but also in trendy beverages like “Golden Milk” – which is prepared with milk and curcuma – has boosted demand for this ingredient. Furthermore, the British market for food supplements is growing, and curcuma longa definitely plays an important role in this respect.

Over 90% of the curcuma entering the UK is imported directly from India, while the Netherlands takes second place with a share of 2%, followed by Spain, France and Germany, with a share of 1% each. Thailand exported 30 tonnes of curcuma to the UK in 2020, followed closely by Indonesia, Madagascar and Nigeria, which exported 26, 24 and 22 tonnes, respectively.  

Because of the continuous growth of the UK’s curcuma imports, the average annual growth rate was 24% in the period under review.

The UK’s export volume of 903 tonnes in 2020 was rather low compared to the import volume (exports amounted to only 9% of imports). Leading export destinations were Germany (156 tonnes), Ireland (125 tonnes), the Netherlands (113 tonnes), France (108 tonnes), and Italy (81 tonnes).

The export volume in 2020 of 903 tonnes was slightly higher than in the two previous years (749 tonnes in 2018 and 846 tonnes in 2019) buts still lower than in 2016 and 2017, when exports were above 1,000 tonnes.  

Last but not least, it should be noted that the United Kingdom is the #1 market for Fairtrade certified products. This definitely offers opportunities for Fairtrade certified spices exporters.

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The Netherlands: trade hub and processing market

The Netherlands has a long tradition in the spice trade, dating back to hundreds of years. This tradition still exists to this day, with Dutch exports of curcuma reaching more than 3,214 tonnes in 2020. This amounts to 55% of the country’s import volume. Nevertheless, the percentage of curcuma being re-exported was higher in previous years. For instance, in 2018, this figure reached 73% of imports. This could indicate that the actual consumption of the spice, whether for local consumption or for the processing industry, is growing. On the other hand, the pandemic has interfered with the trading activities of some Dutch exporters, which has affected exports of spices. Therefore,  the percentage of re-exported curcuma is expected to rise again when trade flows return to normal. The leading destinations are all European countries, with Germany by far the biggest importer at 1,114 tonnes and a share of 35%, followed by France (273 tonnes), Spain (257 tonnes) and Denmark (about 218 tonnes).

In 2020, imports from India dominated with almost 3 thousand tonnes and a share of imports totalling more than 50%. Peru was the second-largest importer, with over 1.7 thousand tonnes. This was double the amount in 2019 and accounted for 30% of total imports. Germany was the third-largest (574 tonnes and a share of 10%), followed by China (135 tonnes, a share of 2%) and the UK (102 tonnes and a share of 2%). Other producing countries exporting curcuma to the Netherlands were Costa Rica (a new supplier since 2017) with 54 tonnes and Thailand with 48 tonnes.

The Netherlands seems to be open to new opportunities and new supplying countries. This has been proven not only by the recent growth in Costa Rica’s exports of curcuma to the Netherlands, but Myanmar and Nicaragua also became new suppliers in 2020, exporting 24 and 18 tonnes, respectively.

Vietnam and Indonesia, both with exports reaching over 100 tonnes in at least one of the four previous years, did not export any curcuma to the Netherlands in 2020.

In the Netherlands, sustainable sourcing of spices is strongly supported by the Dutch Spice Association.

Germany: consumer health consciousness driving growth

Germany’s position in the top three importers of curcuma is logical because of the country’s market size. The German market is, together with Switzerland, the most important market for organic certified spices, including curcuma. Having said this, it does not mean that organic volumes are significant; the volumes are still small but growth is higher than growth of the conventional spices market.

German consumers are very health conscious and the market for supplements and healthy foods is booming. The Covid-19 pandemic stimulated  sales of products perceived as helpful for boosting the immune system, which is a claim that is often attributed to curcuma longa.

In 2020, German imports of curcuma increased by 13%, reaching 5,680 tonnes, and continuing the trend of  the previous four years. 75% of the import volume came from India (4,260 tonnes), while 7% came from Peru (393 tonnes), 5% from the Netherlands (283 tonnes), 4% from Madagascar (242 tonnes), 2% from Spain (112 tonnes), and 1.6% from Costa Rica (89 tonnes). Other developing countries with exports exceeding 20 tonnes in 2020 were Vietnam (38 tonnes), Thailand (38 tonnes), Nigeria (27 tonnes), Turkey (20 tonnes), and Guatemala (19 tonnes). This shows that Germany’s supply of curcuma is quite diversified, much more than, for example, the United Kingdom’s. With other countries like Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Laos, China and Iran supplying small volumes to Germany, this market can be regarded as a very high potential market for small supplying countries of curcuma.

27% of the import volume is re-exported, primarily to European countries. Germany’s neighbouring countries are the leading destinations: Poland (a share of 28%), Austria (19%), France (9%), the UK (4%), Czech Republic (4%), and the Netherlands (4%), together accounting for 67% of German exports.

France: import volumes remain stable

The French import volume of curcuma increased by 10% in 2020, reaching 2,206 tonnes; the highest volume of the last five years.  

Direct imports of curcuma to France from developing countries are slightly lower than the EU average of 80%. The supply of curcuma from India reached 1,373 tonnes in 2020, accounting for 62% of French imports. Other direct imports came from Madagascar (131 tonnes), Peru (64 tonnes), Togo (59 tonnes), Vietnam (15 tonnes), and Thailand (13 tonnes). In total, these accounted for 77% of French imports in 2020.

Leading suppliers from within Europe are Spain (242 tonnes in 2020, a share of 11%), Germany (103 tonnes) and the Netherlands (84 tonnes). Smaller quantities come from Belgium and Italy.

France is not an important trade hub for spices. Exports are certainly there, but compared to imports they are limited. For curcuma, the export volume of 371 tonnes amounts to 17% of the import volume. Export destinations are virtually only European countries. The UK represents almost one third of French exports, while the rest go to about 10 European countries including Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Spain: a growing market for curcuma

While the value of Spanish curcuma imports grew steadily in the period under review, import volumes fluctuated considerably in the 2016-2020 period, falling from 3,753 tonnes in 2016 to 1,977 tonnes in 2018. In 2019 and 2020, curcuma imports started growing again, reaching 2,164 tonnes in 2020, but still remained below 2016 levels. In 2020, 1,536 tonnes came from India, accounting for 71% of total imports.

An important and growing application of curcuma is its use as a colourant in the popular Spanish dish, paella, instead of the relatively expensive saffron.

Peru was the second-largest supplier of Spanish curcuma in 2020, with exports totalling 211 tonnes. Peruvian exports to Spain decreased by 11% in 2020, but remained higher than in previous years. The third-largest supplier is the Netherlands, with 153 tonnes (a share of 7%), followed by Myanmar (64 tonnes and a share of 3%) and Vietnam (48 tonnes, a share of 2%). The last two countries entered the Spanish market in 2019 and 2018, respectively. While Myanmar increased its export volume to Spain by 100% in one year, Vietnamese exports decreased by 25% between 2018 and 2020.

Besides the Netherlands, imports from other European countries reached 4% of the total. The largest supplying countries were Germany (29 tonnes and a share of 1%) and Albania (24 tonnes and a share of 1%).

Spain is an important supplier and re-exporter of spices within Europe. 49% of Spanish imports find its way to a long list of European countries plus Morocco. France tops the list (304 tonnes and 29% of exports), followed by the United Kingdom (129 tonnes and a share of 12%). Morocco is the third main destination of Spanish curcuma, with imports amounting to 124 tonnes and a share of 12%.

As the Spanish supply is less diversified than that of other European countries, Spain does not seem to be among the most interesting countries for new entrants, unless they are based in one of the established supplying countries: Peru, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Poland: the main market in Eastern Europe

Poland experienced a positive trend in its curcuma imports from 2016 to 2019, which grew rapidly from 584 tonnes to 1,282 tonnes, before falling slightly in 2020 to 1,230 tonnes.  

In 2020, 97% of Polish curcuma imports came directly from developing countries and the top three countries accounting for 94% of total imports. The main supplier was India with 885 tonnes and a share of 72%, followed by China (182 tonnes and a share of 15%) and Peru (85 tonnes and a share of 7%). Germany is the largest European supplier and ranked fourth on the list with only 20 tonnes and a share of 2%.

Poland exported 251 tonnes of curcuma in 2020, amounting to 20% of the import volume in that year. The main destinations were Russia (60 tonnes), Germany (43 tonnes), Czech Republic (31 tonnes), Croatia (23 tonnes), and Slovakia (19 tonnes).

The other 80% of imports were destined for the local spices market and for the manufacturing of products like sauces and pastes. For example, two major European brands of sauces and pastes, Blue Dragon and Pataks, are manufactured in Poland, and use a lot of curcuma longa.

Tips:

  • Check the latest developments on ITC Trademap or the Indian Spices Board. ITC Trademap offers details of trade volumes and values, per year and per importing and exporting country. The Indian Spices Board’s data predominantly cover details of Indian production and exports.
  • Target leading Western European importing countries of Curcuma longa from developing countries. The most interesting are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and France, while also Poland could be interesting. Note that the Indian Spices Board lists the United Kingdom and Germany as the main European importers of Indian Curcuma longa.
  • Also consider targeting smaller, fast-growing importers of Curcuma longa, most notably Austria and Switzerland. Although their import volumes are smaller, they may be interesting enough to focus on for small to medium-sized exporters, as volumes would still be substantial for them.

The trends that are explained below are visible all over Europe. At the same, the wealthier a country is, the more impact these trends have on the food and spices market. This means that the markets in Western Europe, namely the 4 countries United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and France, feel the most impact of the following trends. In Spain, the impact of these trends can be rated as medium, while in Poland the impact of these trends is still low.

Consumers moving toward healthier diets

European consumers are increasingly becoming health-conscious consumers. They look for healthy products and avoiding products that are considered unhealthy. Unhealthy ingredients are predominantly salt, sugar, and fat. Salt can be substituted by spice and herbs mixes, in which curcuma is often an ingredient.

Further, curcuma is also considered as a natural yellow colouring additive and the food industry increasingly uses it as an ingredient to colour cheese, mustard, butter, yellow cake mix, and popcorn, avoiding the use of other colorants that might be perceived as chemical and unhealthy. Using curcuma as additive allows manufacturers to have a “cleaner” label, displaying the use of curcuma instead of other “unhealthy” products.

Adding curcuma to many special diets plans (in example the chrono, paleo, and keto diets) is promoted to reduce inflammation, boost mood, reduce blood sugar, improve hearth health and inhibit tumour growth.  

In line with health trends and the many health claims associated with curcuma, manufacturers are increasingly launching teas and powder shakes containing the spice, to complement a healthy diet. Therefore, the use of curcuma has expanded from a clean additive to a superfood.

This trend is likely to remain the leading driver of food market developments in the next decades and will positively impact demand for spices such as curcuma.

Tips:

  • Focus on the application of your curcuma in healthy product ranges.
  • Promote your product as healthy ingredient and stress the benefits of your curcuma in people’s diets.
  • Provide further use options for the product to current partners

A different perception of health

A changing consumer understanding of what it means to be healthy is driving consumption of Curcuma longa. Instead of the absence of illness, consumers use healthy products to prevent diseases and feel good, for example by drinking herbal tea or smoothies with spices such as curcuma. Theis new understanding of health and wellbeing goes hand-in-hand with other developments like:

  • Growing consumption of so-called ‘superfoods’. Superfoods are ingredients that are believed to have a particular benefit or significant benefits compared to other foods, and curcuma is one of them. In particular Peru is using the term of Superfoods to promote the country’s large range of healthy ingredients, among which is also Curcuma longa.
  • Popularity of Ayurveda in Western Europe: consumers are becoming increasingly interested in alternative medicine and Ayurveda has gained a lot of popularity among Europeans, along with yoga and meditation. Curcuma is widely used in ayurvedic preparations and Ayurveda-inspired herbal mixes. One example is Golden Milk, a beverage containing vegetable milk and curcuma that is recommended for treating illnesses and keeping people healthy. This beverage has become a very popular among health-conscious consumers, and is not only prepared at home, but is also widely available in trendy cafés in big European cities.

Figure 3: Ayurvedic herbal mix with curcuma from the German company Teekanne

Ayurvedic herbal mix with curcuma
  • Complementing a healthy diet with beverages, shakes or shots: in addition to eating healthy foods, many health-conscious consumers are trying to boost their health and wellbeing by increasing their intake of superfoods. Shots of curcuma, sold in small bottles as a convenience product, are a good example of this trend. Such shots can be consumed any time of day. Some consumers also add a curcuma-containing beverage or shake to some of their meals like breakfast or before or after working out at the gym.


Figure 4: Organic and Demeter-certified shot with curcuma and ginger

Organic and Demeter-certified shot with curcuma and ginger

Figure 5: Spice mix with curcuma to make Golden Milk

Spice mix with curcuma to make Golden Milk

Growing market for international food, both in- and outside the home

European consumers are becoming increasingly interested in trying new food preparations and discovering new flavours, cuisines and exotic products, both in restaurants and at home. The Covid-19 pandemic temporarily put an end to restaurant visits in 2020 and 2021, but at the same time also

boosted the consumption of exotic foods at home. Some developments that have added to this trend are:

  • An increase in global relations and communications. In the past decade, more Europeans travelled to Asian destinations and more foreigners came to Europe every year. Due to the pandemic, people travelled less in 2020 but also tried to compensate for that by cooking exotic dishes at home that reminded them of previous holidays. Once the pandemic ends, consumers are expected to travel again, but some of the new recipes tried in 2020 will probably become part of the home-cooking repertoire.
  • The ongoing popularity of TV cooking programmes like Master Chef that encourage home cooking and experimentation with different products.
  • The growth of the ethnic food market across Europe. Curcuma is a spice that is used in nearly every Indian dish and other oriental cuisines. Indian and other Asian foods play an important role in gastronomy in Europe, thus stimulating the imports of curcuma longa to Europe.

Growing demand for organic certified spices and herbs

The global organic spice market was worth €17 billion in 2021 and is estimated to reach a (retail) valuation of almost €20 billion by 2026. This amounts to an annual growth rate of 7.5% between 2021 and 2026. North America and Europe are the largest market for organic spices. Within Europe, the growth rate of organic spice consumption is forecast to be particularly high in Sweden and the UK (more than 5.5% per year over the next seven years).

The overall market for organic products is increasing, including processed products that might need organic certified ingredients like curcuma. In addition, a significant portion of the consumers looking for healthy products usually value organically certified products and opt to purchase organic products rather than conventional alternatives. As a result, a sizeable portion of the new launches of healthy products in the market with curcuma as superfoods consist of organically certified products.

Because of these trends, the organic curcuma longa market is forecast to grow faster than the conventional curcuma longa market. This is especially important for new suppliers with small quantities who are interested in entering the European market and who have the option of offering organically-certified curcuma longa.

One of the companies that has benefited from the strong organic market growth is La Campina, a farmer’s cooperative of organic-certified farmers in Peru. This company has contributed very strongly to Peru’s successful export expansion strategy for the superfood curcuma.

Tips:

  • Look for potential buyers that are more focusing on the health food markets instead of the traditional segments.
  • Find a way to better promote your country’s spices and also taking into account the health benefits of using spices. This should be coordinated by your national association. Also learn from best practices in the sector, most notably Peru’s sector branding strategy.
  • Check whether there is sufficient demand for an organic version of your Curcuma longa. Talk to your (potential) buyers to see whether they are interested in certified Curcuma longa. Look for companies that trade in certified Curcuma longa online or at trade fairs, for example among exhibitors at Biofach, an organic trade fair, or look for organic importers on the website of the International Trade Centre.
  • If your Curcuma longa does not have organic certification, promote the sustainable aspects of your production process. Buyers might ask you to support your claims with certification or documentation on your sourcing practices and/or your corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. Our requirements for spices and herbs study provides you with more information on certification standards.
  • See our study on Exporting Curcuma longa as a natural ingredient for health products to Europe for more information on trends related to health and superfoods.
  • Be careful on how you frame the superfood status of your Curcuma longa in your marketing materials. The term ‘superfood’ is not an authorized health claim in Europe. European companies may only use this term on their label if it is part of their brand name.
  • See our study of Trends for spices and herbs for more information on trends on the European market for spices and herbs.

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Autentika Global.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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