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The European market potential for dried chillies

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The popularity of international cuisine and spicy food contributes to the increasing demand for dried chillies on the European market. Veganism has also contributed to the increasing consumption of chillies as the taste of vegan meals is improved by spicy flavours. European dried chilli consumers prefer mild chilli varieties and are showing interest in the authentic and new chilli flavours. Spain is the largest dried chilli importer in Europe, but the market is largely concentrated by the import of cheap dried chillies from China. Therefore, opportunities for new developing country suppliers can be found in less concentrated markets such as Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Poland.

1. Product description

Dried chillies are products obtained by drying the fresh ripe fruit of the paprika, which is a plant from the Capsicum genus. The most widely spread species of Capsicum genus used for the production of dried chillies is Capsicum annuum, which includes three main groups of varieties: longum (elongated shape), grossum (bell-shaped) and abbreviatum (round to flattened shape). Aside from Capsicum annum, other Capsicum species are also used for drying, including Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum chinense and Capsicum pubescens.

Figure 1: Dried cayenne chilli paper flakes

Dried chilli paper flakes Cayenne

Source: Pixabay   

Figure 2: Korean chilli powder

Korean chilli powder

Source: http://uci.or.kr/G903:PI0-000321402 through Wikimedia Commons

In botanical terms, chilli peppers and sweet peppers are the same species but the difference is in the presence of capsaicin, which gives the spicy heat (pungency) to chilli peppers.

Although chilli pepper originates in South America, it is now widely grown on all continents. Currently, Asian (especially Indian) and African production of dried chillies is significantly larger than production in South America. Still, European consumers are more familiar with the names of South American cultivars (such as Ancho, Cayenne, Chipotle, Jalapeño, Piri Piri etc.) compared to Asian cultivars (such as Sannam, Teja, Byadgie or Wonderhot).

Dried chillies can be naturally sun-dried or dehydrated in hot air circulation tunnels. Dried chillies are produced in different forms, but there are three main forms: as a whole, crushed flakes and ground powder. Crushed or ground chillies can be produced with or without seeds.

Dried chillies are traded under two different Harmonised System (HS) codes. The HS code for dried chillies that are neither crushed nor ground is 090421. Crushed and ground chillies are included in HS code 090422, together with all other capsicums, including sweet peppers.

Figure 3: Thai Phrik Haeng chillies

Thai Phrik Haeng chillies

Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 licence

Figure 4: Byadgie chillies

Byadgie chillies

Source: Rajaramraok through Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 licence

2. What makes Europe an interesting market for dried chillies?

Europe is the second-largest importer of dried chillies in the world – after Asia but ahead of the USA – accounting for around 40% share of total world’s imports. European imports of dried chillies increased every year in volume in the period between 2016 and 2020. Around two-thirds of European imports come from developing countries. Also, the largest share of the intra-European trade consists of re-exports of dried chillies that originally came from developing countries.

In the next five years, imports are likely to increase with an annual growth rate of 5 to 6%. The highest growth is expected for dried chillies with medium pungency as European consumers do not prefer extremely hot chillies. Also, strong growth is forecasted for new and exotic chilli varieties which add more complexity to flavours. Although significant, import growth in Europe is forecasted to remain lower than in Asia where economic growth is much higher and markets are expanding rapidly.

European markets offer a price advantage over Asian markets for high-quality and sustainably produced dried chilli exporters. To illustrate, during 2020, the average unit value of imported whole dried chillies in most of the Asian markets was around €2/kg, while in Germany and France, the average import values were €3.3/kg and €4.9/kg, respectively.

Between 2016 and 2020, European imports of dried chillies grew by 3% in value and 6% in volume each year, up to a value of €417 million and a quantity of 175 thousand tonnes in 2020. The statistics above include all types of dried ‘capsicum’ species. Although precise statistics are not available, an estimated  80% of all quantities consist of spicy dried chili peppers while the remaining 20% consist of dried sweet peppers.

Whole dried chillies account for 56% of the total quantity of imported dried chillies from developing countries while the remaining 44% consist of crushed and ground chillies. However, the opposite applies as regards internal European trade. Crushed and whole dried chillies account for 86% of imports while the remaining 14% consists of whole chillies. This indicates that a significant quantity of whole dried chillies is processed (crushed, ground and mixed) within Europe after importing. 12933 553001

European production of dried chillies is not self-sufficient. Europe produces less than 80 thousand tonnes of dried chillies and other dried paprika which is 50% of the imported quantities. The leading producers are Romania, Hungary and Spain. In Romania and Hungary dried chilli pepper and paprika is traditionally used in the cooking of meat, vegetable and bean stews. A large share of those products in Hungary and Romania actually consists of dried sweet peppers.

3. Which European countries offer most opportunities for dried chillies?

As Europe’s main importer of dried chillies, Spain is an interesting focus market. However, Spain consumes a relatively small share of imported dried chillies using imported chillies for further processing, blending and re-exports. Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Poland are even more promising leading markets for value-added chillies with a relatively large consumption and import share from developing countries.

Spain: the largest European importer of dried chillies

Spain is Europe’s largest importer of dried chillies by far, recording its  highest ever import volume of 68 thousand tonnes in 2020. In 2020, the Spanish import value totalled €114 million, accounting for 27% of all European imports. Spain’s imports increased by 8% in volume each year  between 2016 and 2020.

Spain is also a relatively large producer and the third-largest exporter of dried chillies in the world (after India and China) but a large share of Spanish exports consist of re-exports. A large amount (around 73%) of imported dried chillies is imported as whole chillies, which are further crushed or ground and re-exported in the form of powder of flakes. The main target market for Spain’s (re-)export is the United States (with an export share of 24%) followed by Germany (13%) and the United Kingdom (10%).

The Spanish import market for dried chillies is very concentrated as Spain imports on average 80% of all dried chillies from China and between 10 and 15% from Peru, leaving relatively little room for other suppliers. The main reason behind the large import share from China lays in low import prices, which averaged €1.56/kg in 2020 and was the lowest price compared to all other suppliers.

For developing country suppliers Spain is an interesting trade market for dried chillies but not very attractive as a final consumption market. Although very popular in Spanish cuisine, chilli peppers are predominantly consumed fresh and these are available all year round. Spain is also the largest exporter of fresh chillies in the world. Domestic consumption of dried chillies in Spain accounts to around 1.2 thousand tonnes (according to FAOSTAT and international trade data) which is far behind Germany.

The most consumed types of dried chillies in Spain are moderately hot cayenne peppers. Popular cultivars used for drying in Spain include La Nora (round) and Choricero (famous for its use in the production of chorizo sausages). The most famous type of Spanish chilli is Ibarra chilli but it is commonly produced as pickled and not dried. There are more than 100 companies in Spain engaged in processing, packing and trading dried chillies. Most of them are located in regions of Castile-La Mancha, Valencia, Murcia, Aragon, Catalonia and Andalusia.

In the retail segment, dried chillies are sold mostly under the private labels of Spanish retail chains, such as Mercadona (Hacendado), Carrefour (Carrefour Classic), Alcampo (Auchan), Lidl (Kania), Eroski (Eroski) and Dia (% label). Independent chilli brands in Spain include Ducros (acquired by McCormick), Carmencita (by Jesús Navarro) and Dani. Traders of dried chillies in Spain include Ramón Sabater, Dani, Caylan, Paprimpur, Carmencita, Juan José Albarracín and Juan Navarro.

Several Spanish importers have a considerable processing capacity and supply many other European countries. Common processing activities performed by Spanish companies include grinding and mixing of whole chillies but also added-value processing, such as the production of oleoresins. The Spanish supply of processed chillies (usually in the form of powder) often contains mixed chillies of different origins.

Spain is the main trader of South American types of chillies in Europe, such as Amarillo Mirasol, Poblano or Guajillo. Due to being highly specialised in the trade of chillies, Spanish traders are constantly looking for new and ‘exotic’ varieties. This explains the increasing imports from emerging origins such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Senegal or Uganda.

Germany: a large food processing industry

Germany offers good opportunities as the largest consuming market of dried chillies in Europe. In 2020, imports reached 26.4 thousand tonnes and consumption is estimated to have been around 18 thousand tonnes. Those quantities also include a significant share of dried sweet peppers. Imports increased by 5% in value and by 4% in volume annually between 2016 and 2020.

The German market seems less concentrated compared to Spain with an import share of 44% from China. However, the second-largest supplier is Spain with a share of 27% and some of the Spanish exports to Germany also include re-exported and processed dried chillies imported from China. In 2020, other suppliers  included Brazil, Mexico and Turkey with shares of 7%, 6% and Turkey, 2%, respectively.

Dried chillies and dried sweet peppers are the third largest imported spice category in Germany after black pepper and ginger. German companies mainly import dried chillies and further process them either by simple crushing and packing or by using them as ingredients in spice blends and seasoning preparations. A significant share of dried chillies in Germany is used in the meat processing industry, especially for the production of sausages.

There are almost 90 companies that are members of the German Spice Association. Those companies are primarily engaged in refining spices and producing spice blends, spice preparations and other seasoning ingredients – in 2018 they made up for more than €1.2 billion. It is worth mentioning the German Fuchs Group, which is the largest European spice manufacturer and the leading privately owned global spice company.

Of the independent brands, Fuchs Group (officially called DF World of Spices) has the largest retail market share. It has several brands of spices that include chillies, such as Fuchs, Ostmann and BioWagner (an organic brand). In addition to their own brands, it  also packages pepper and other spices for several German private labels. The main private labels in Germany are Kania (of discounter chain Lidl), Le Gusto (by Aldi Süd), Portland (by Aldi Nord), Gut & Günstig (by Edeka), and REWE and REWE Beste Wahl (by REWE).

Apart from the large consumption of dried chillies by the meat processing industry in Germany home consumption is also increasing. Wide presence of ethnic cuisines is stimulating demand of chillies as German consumers also like to try new dishes at homes. The usage of chillies in innovative recipes is popularised by famous German celebrity chefs such as Stefan Marquard, Tim Mälzer or Alexander Herrmann.

The United Kingdom: the leading European importer of Indian chillies

The United Kingdom is the third-largest importer and the second-largest consumer of dried chillies in Europe. In 2010 imports reached 16.2 thousand tonnes and consumption was estimated at around 15 thousand tonnes. Imports increased by 7% each year between 2016 and 2020 in both value and quantity.

In comparison to Germany and the Netherlands, the structure of the United Kingdom import market is different with the large influence of imports from India. This fact is mainly due to the large Indian community in the country, as dried chillies are often used in traditional Indian recipes. The United Kingdom imports 49% of its dried chillies from Spain, followed by India (27%) and China (9%).

In the retail segment, the private labels of retail chains like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, and Morrisons, have the largest market shares for dried chillies. Two leading independent brands selling dried chillies are Schwartz, owned by McCormick, and Bart, which is part of the Germany-based Fuchs Group. The industry estimates that there are more than 80 importers of dried chilli pepper in the UK, some of which trade in small quantities. Some of the importers specialise in the supply of ethnic-style (mostly Asian) shops such as TRS, Interlink Direct, Fudco, East End Foods or Asco Foods. Several of the larger companies are members of the Seasoning and Spice Association.

The Netherlands:  re-exporter and main European market for Thai dried chillies

The Netherlands is an important importer of dried chillies. Its imports increased each year by 9% in volume and by 10% in value between 2016 and 2020. In 2020, Dutch imports of dried chillies reached 15 thousand tonnes. The Netherlands plays an important role as a trade hub in Europe as around 45% of all imported dried chillies are re-exported to other European countries.

The Dutch market for dried chillies is quite diversified, meaning that there is no particular country that strongly dominates the supply. However, the Netherlands is the main European market for imports of dried chillies from Thailand. This is because the Netherlands is home to several specialised traders in the importation of food and spices from Thailand origin. In 2020, 36% of imports came from Thailand, followed by Spain (25%), including re-exports from China), China (8%) and Turkey (5%). Due to its diversified supply, the Netherlands offers quite good opportunities for emerging suppliers such as Korea, Indonesia, Kenya, Egypt and Uganda.

Retail chains such as Albert Heijn (AH label), Aldi (De Kruidencompany label) and Jumbo control a lot of the dried chilli retail sales in the Netherlands. The leading independent brands of pepper in the Netherlands are Verstegen and Euroma. In the Netherlands, sustainable sourcing of spices is strongly supported by the Dutch Spice Association.

France

French imports of dried chillies increased by 5% in value and 6% in volume each year between 2016 and 2020. In 2020, imports of dried chillies to France reached 6.5 thousand tonnes and €22.1 million. In 2020, the leading supplier of dried chillies to France was Spain with a share of 53%, followed by China and India (with a share of 9% each). Interestingly, France is the only European country which imports dried chillies from Tunisia in significant quantities. Other countries that have significantly increased exports to France over the last five years are Mexico, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Uganda.

Apart from imports, France produces smaller quantities of dried chillies. An especially important chilli variety in France is a medium-heat Espelette pepper (Piment d'Espeletteis in French), which has a designated protection of origin. According to the Association of Espellete chillies there are 160 producers producing around 200 tonnes of dried chillies of the Espellette variety.

Most retail chains in France sell dried chillies under their own private labels, including Carrefour (Carrefour and Carrefour Bio labels), Leclerc (Rustica and eco labels), and Auchan (Auchan and Auchan bio labels). A leading independent spice brand that also sells dried chillies in France is Ducros (now owned by McCormick). Examples of other brands are Fuchs (German brand), Sainte Lucie, Albert Menes and Espig. French retailers select packers of private labels in competitive tender processes, so some of the private label pepper is packaged in other countries.

Poland

Poland is also an important and stable importer of dried chillies. Between 2016 and 2020, Polish imports increased each year by 11% in quantity and 13% in value, reaching 6.6 thousand tonnes and €18.7 million, respectively. In 2020, Poland’s largest supplier in terms of volume was China with an import share of 45%, followed by Spain (27%), Mexico (11%), Peru (5%) and India (3%).

The dried chillies supplier that gained market share in the Polish market at the fastest rate over the last five years was Peru. Polish imports from Peru increased from 96 tonnes in 2016 to 360 thousand tonnes in 2020. Peruvian exports have focused on stable and high quality and other developing countries suppliers can use a similar strategy to be successful on the European market.

There are some relatively small importing countries which are growing rapidly and are increasingly importing dried chillies directly from developing countries. Examples include Hungary (with annual growth in value of 11% since 2016), Romania (21%), Finland (19%) and Denmark (33%).

Tips:

The increasing interest for the international ethnic cuisines combined with the need for stable and sustainable sourcing are the leading driving forces behind the growing consumer interest in dried chillies in Europe. To find out more about general trends, read our study about trends on the European spices and herbs market.

Consumers are getting better informed about chillies they eat

Consumers are becoming familiar with different chilli flavours. Flavorchem’s “Flavor & Trend Forecast” forecasted an increasing demand for hot flavours in 2021. Such flavours include habanero, chamoy sauce, ghost pepper, guajillo, gochujang, Nashville Hot, chipotle, and Carolina Reaper pepper. The demand for hot flavours has also been accompanied by an increase in consumer interest in different chilli types. Flavour company Wixon revealed that Jalapeno is the most prolific pepper type in this category, but that interest in chilli types that add heat and depth of flavour, including aji amarillo, guajillo, habanero, and poblano, is also on the rise.

Clean label trend in dried chillies

Consumers are demanding cleaner label products, made with only natural and recognizable ingredients. In the selection of dried chillies consumers prefer products which contain only dried chillies and nothing more. Clean label dried chillies usually refer to absence of colour preservation additives (such as ethoxyquin) and anticaking agents (such as Silicon Dioxide). Some companies such as Spanish Evesa actively promote dried chilli products as ‘clean label’.

The heat level of dried chillies is decreasing

Although chilli spices are in demand it seems that the level of heat is decreasing. According to the market research company Kalsec, the frequency of consumption of hot and spicy foods is increasing, but heat levels are moderating. While consumers are still incorporating heat into their consumption patterns, heat is taking on more complexity, such as sweet heat combinations or ethnic cuisines that combine a variety of herbs and spices with some type of chilli pepper.

Vertical integration

In order to maintain constant supply and stable prices when sourcing dried chillies many European companies started to invest in production sites in developing countries. These investments are likely to increase due to global climate change in order to stabilise sourcing. Some examples regarding the production of dried chillies include German Fuchs Gruppe’s investment in China (with a production unit in Anqiu city and a technology centre in Shanghai), Spanish Paprimur’s production in China, Spanish Sabater’s sourcing location in China, British JLP’s China Food Processing Facility and Polish Saran Enterprises’ office in Vietnam.

Initiatives to fight fraud in the production of dried chillies are increasing

Due to the increasing popularity of different chilli flavours, European producers are faced with the offer of wrongly declared types of chillies. Also additives such as colour enhancers (such as Sudan dyes), flavour enhancers (such as oleoresins) are sometimes not declared, which is considered fraud. In order to fight adulteration the European Spice Association published the Adulteration Awareness document, while the UK Spice and Seasoning Association published a guidance on authenticity of herbs and spices.

The Mexican Grocery Processors Association (Canainca) has launched the initiative for new labelling rules for the EU in order to clarify the Mexican origin of dried chillies exported to Europe. According to Canainca, ‘many Turkish and Asian processors are exporting fake Mexican chilli to the EU using its variety designations, such as chipotle and jalapeño, and national symbols, such as the mariachi hat, on its labelling, trying to take advantage of the global success of the traditional Mexican recipes.’

Tips:

  • Consider the development of new chilli spices of moderate heat level. More complex flavours can be achieved by searing, roasting, toasting or smoking chilli rather than using the chilli without further processing.
  • Properly declare your dried chilli peppers. Find out more in the section below.

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

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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