The European market potential for dried chillies
The popularity of spicy food contributes to the increasing demand for dried chillies on the European market. 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.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- What makes Europe an interesting market for dried chillies?
- Which European countries offer most opportunities for dried chillies?
- What trends offer opportunities on the European dried chillies market?
- What requirements should dried chillies comply with to be allowed on the European market?
- What are the requirements for niche markets?
- Through what channels can you get dried chillies on the European market?
- Through what channels does a product end up on the end-market?
- What competition do you face on the European dried chillies market?
- Which companies are you competing with?
- Which products are you competing with?
- What are the prices for dried chillies?
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.
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.
Picture 1: Dried chilli paper flakes Cayenne Picture 2: Korean chilli powder
Source: Pixabay Source: Wikimedia Commons
Picture 3: Thai Phrik Haeng chillies Picture 4: Byadgie chillies
Source: Wikimedia Commons Source: Wikimedia Commons
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 have increased every year in volume in the period between 2014 and 2018. Around two-thirds of imports from outside Europe 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 5-6%. The highest growth is expected for dried chillies with medium pungency as European consumers do not prefer extremely hot chillies. 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 2018 the average unit value of imported whole dried chillies in most of the Asian markets was €1.2 to €1.6/kg while in Germany average import value was €3.5/kg (which is more than double).
Between 2014 and 2018, European imports of dried chillies grew 6% in value and 5% in volume every year, up to a value of €326 million and a quantity of 144 thousand tonnes in 2018.
Crushed and ground chillies represent 65% of the total quantity of imported dried chillies while the remaining 35% represent whole dried chillies. Considering import from developing countries, crushed and whole dried chillies are imported in equal shares (50% each). This indicates that a significant quantity of whole dried chillies is crushed and ground within Europe after importing.
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 producer is Romania followed by Hungary and Spain (figure 2). 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 represent dried sweet peppers.
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 with a relatively large consumption and import share from developing countries.
Spain is by far Europe’s largest importer of dried chillies. The Spanish import value was €78 million in total in 2018, good for 24% of total EU imports. Spain’s imports increased by 9% in volume annually between 2014 and 2018.
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 75%) 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 a 20% export share) followed by the United Kingdom and Germany with 11% share each.
The Spanish import market for dried chillies is very concentrated as Spain imports 80% of all dried chillies from China and between 10 and 15% from Peru leaving relatively little space for other suppliers. The main reason behind the large import share from China lays in low import prices – an average of €1.4/kg in 2018, which 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.
Germany offers good opportunities as the largest consuming market of dried chillies in Europe. In 2018 import reached 23.4 thousand tonnes and consumption is estimated to be around 16.2 thousand tonnes. Those quantities also include a significant share of dried sweet peppers. Imports increased by 2% in value and 1% in volume annually between 2014 and 2018.
The German market seems less concentrated compared to Spain with a 45% import share from China. However, the second-largest supplier is Spain with 24% share and some of the Spanish exports to Germany also include re-exported and processed dried chillies imported from China.
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.
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 United Kingdom is the third-largest importer and the second-largest consumer of dried chillies in Europe. In 2018 imports reached 13.4 thousand tonnes and consumption is estimated at around 12.3 thousand tonnes. Imports increased by 8% annually between 2014 and 2018 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 40% dried chillies from Spain followed by 30% of imports from India.
The Netherlands is an important importer of dried chillies. Its imports increased annually by 3% in volume and by 7% in value between 2014 and 2018. In 2018, Dutch imports of dried chillies reached 10.3 thousand tonnes. The Netherlands plays an important role as a trade hub in Europe as around 75% 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. Import from Spain in 2018 accounted for 29% share (including Spanish re-export from China) followed by Thailand (11% share) and China (10.3% share). Due to its diversified supply, the Netherlands provides quite good opportunities for new developing countries suppliers.
In the Netherlands, sustainable sourcing of spices is strongly supported by the Dutch Spice Association.
French imports of dried chillies have increased by 6% in value and 5% in volume annually between 2014 and 2018. Import of dried chillies in France has reached 6.2 thousand tonnes and €19.3 million in 2018. In 2018 the leading supplier of dried chillies to France was Spain with 50% share in quantity followed by China and India (both with 9% share). Interestingly, France is the only European country importing dried chillies from Tunisia in significant quantities.
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.
Poland is also an important and stable importer of dried chillies. Between 2014 and 2018, Polish imports increased annually by 3%, both in value and quantity, reaching 5.6 thousand tonnes and €14.4 million respectively. Poland’s largest supplier in volume is Spain with 29% import share in 2018 closely followed by China (25% share) and Peru (24% share).
Peru is the dried chillies supplier that gained the most market share in the Polish market over the last 5 years. Polish imports from Peru increased from only 58 tonnes in 2014 to 1.3 thousand tonnes in 2018. 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 Romania, Slovenia and Greece (growing by 11%, 23% and 10% respectively annually over the last five years (23%) and Greece (10%).
- Find contacts of Spanish dried chilli processors and traders on the websites of the Spanish Association of Processors and Packers of Spices and Seasonings and the specialised Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Paprika.
- For the contacts of German dried chilli traders see the list of members of German Spice Association.
- For contacts of other leading dried chilli exporters explore the member’s lists of national associations such as Seasoning and Spice Association (UK), Royal Dutch Spices Association (the Netherlands) and, National Union of Processors of Pepper, Spices, Herbs and Vanilla (France). For information about Polish companies contact the Polish Chamber of Commerce.
- Consider investing in French or Spanish speaking staff for the easier penetration into the French or Spanish market for dried chillies. Both countries prefer communication in their mother tongues.
- See our study on Market Statistics & Outlook for Spices and Herbs for more information about general developments of trade within the European spices sector.
- Specifically, check trade statistics of your interest on the tools such as ITC TradeMap or Trade Helpdesk. Use HS codes 090421 and 090422 for analysing dried chillies trade.
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
According to Innova Market Insights, new types of chilli flavours are becoming very popular both in Europe and internationally. Consumers are getting familiar with different chilli flavours. For example, the average annual global growth of food and beverage launches with selected chilli flavour (between 2013 and 2017) was 59% for Sriracha chilli, 19% for Habanero chilli and 15% for Chipotle chilli.
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.
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.’
- 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.
Entering the European market for dried chillies
Food safety certification combined with reliable and frequent laboratory tests creates a positive image for dried chilli exporters to Europe. Sustainable production and implementation of corporate social responsibility standards will provide additional advantages for emerging suppliers. The strongest competitor to new dried chilli suppliers is China. Chinese companies are combining price competitiveness with investment into safe and high-quality production.
In addition to the quality requirements mentioned in the section below, please refer to our study about buyer requirements for spices and herbs for a general overview of buyer requirements in Europe.
What are mandatory requirements?
All foods, including dried chillies, sold in the European Union must be safe. This applies to imported products as well. Additives must be approved. Harmful contaminants, such as pesticide residues, and excessive levels of mycotoxins or preservatives are banned. It should also be readily obvious from the labelling whether a food contains allergens.
Official border control for dried chillies imported to the European Union
Official food controls include regular inspections that can be carried out at import or at all further stages of marketing. In case of non-compliance with the European food legislation, individual cases are reported through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feeds (RASFF), which is freely accessible for the general public.
You should be aware that repeated non-compliance with the European food legislation by a particular country may lead to special import conditions or even suspension of imports from that country. Those stricter conditions include laboratory test results for a certain percentage of shipments from specified countries. Dried chillies are often subject to increased border control for countries failing to comply with the EU food safety requirements.
Since June 2019, dried chillies and dried sweet peppers from the following countries are under stricter import control:
- India – according to regulation on special import conditions 20% of all shipments of dried chillies must be officially tested at the border for the presence of aflatoxins. Additionally, all dried chilli shipments should be accompanied by a health certificate stating that the products have been sampled and analysed for the presence of aflatoxins and have been found compliant with the EU legislation.
- China – 20% of all shipments of dried sweet peppers must be officially tested for the presence of Salmonella
- Sri Lanka – 50% all shipments of dried chilli and sweet peppers must be officially tested for the presence of Aflatoxins
The European Parliament and Council adopted the New Official Controls Regulation which will enter into application in December 2019. The New Official Controls Regulation will extend its scope to organic products. Exporters from third countries will use the single standard Common Health Entry Document for the prior notification of exports.
Contaminants control in dried chillies
The European Commission Regulation sets maximum levels for certain contaminants in food products. This regulation is frequently updated and apart from the limits set for general foodstuffs, there are a number of specific contaminant limits for specific products including dried chillies. The most common requirements regarding contaminants in dried chillies are related to the presence of pesticide residues, mycotoxins, heavy metals, microbiological organisms and food additives.
The Presence of mycotoxins (aflatoxins and ochratoxin A) is the main reason for banning dried chillies from the European market. According to the RASFF portal, dried chillies were banned from the EU market ten times due to the high presence of mycotoxins in 2018. Seven of those banned shipments were imported from India. The maximum level of aflatoxin for dried chillies must be between 5 μg/kg for aflatoxin B1 and 10 μg/kg for the total aflatoxin content (B1, B2, G1 and G2). For ochratoxin, the maximum level is 15 μg/kg.
The European Union has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in and on food products. Products containing more pesticide residues than allowed will be withdrawn from the European market. However, excessive residues of pesticides are not very frequent in dried chillies trade. The European Union regularly publishes a list of approved pesticides that is authorised for use in the European Union. This list is frequently updated. One of the pesticides which was frequently found in dried chillies from India was insecticide profenofos.
Residues of anthraquinone may be found in smoked dried chillies capsicums as a result of artificial drying with fire. The smoke contains anthraquinone, which can end up in the product if appropriate precautionary measures are not taken.
The most common type of microbiological contamination and border rejection for dried chillies is the presence of Salmonella. Salmonella is usually transmitted to chillies by the irrigation with unsafe water, use of untreated manure as fertilizer and harvesting of chillies by dirty hands. Also, in some areas the drying process is often performed in the open air (often directly on the ground) which increases the risk of infestation with Salmonella by animals and birds.
Buyers and European authorities can reject products if they have undeclared, unauthorised or too high levels of extraneous materials. There is specific legislation for additives (like colours, thickeners) and flavourings that list what E-numbers and substances are allowed to be used. Additives that are authorised are listed in Annex II to the Food Additives Regulation.
The most often used types of food additives in the production of dried chillies are preservatives, colour enhancers (such as Sudan 1 dye) and anticaking agents (in chilli powders). However, keep in mind that European traders and consumers prefer dried chillies which are additive-free.
- Follow Codex Alimentarius Code of practice for the prevention and reduction of mycotoxins in spices and Code of Hygienic Practice for Low-Moisture Foods. Steam sterilisation was proven to be effective in reducing the mould presence. Also, steam sterilisation is favoured by the European buyers as it is natural and chemical and radiation-free. Also it is important to store your dried chillies in dry conditions and to prevent excessive moisture accumulation.
- For the control of contaminates in dried chillies use only services of laboratories which are ISO/IEC 17025 accredited. Presence of aflatoxins must be tested according to the EU regulation on methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of the levels of mycotoxins in foodstuffs.
- Read more about MRLs on the European Commission website on Maximum Residue Levels. To be prepared for potential new changes in the MRLs, read the Ongoing Reviews of MRLs in the European Union.
- Check the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) database for examples of dried chillies withdrawn from the market and the reasons behind these withdrawals.
What additional requirements do buyers often have?
The minimum requirements for dried chillies are that they must be intact (if traded as a whole) and that they must be free from diseases, foreign matters and any other disorders. The maximum moisture content for crushed and ground dried chillies is set to 11%. The maximum moisture content for whole chillies varies depending on the commercial type of chillies from 9% (for De árbol chillies) to 13.5% (for Guajillo and Pasilla chillies) according to the UNECE standard.
Quality of dried chillies is determined by several factors where some are subjective such as taste or flavour. Still, several quality product characteristics can be officially measured and included in product specifications. Those include:
- The intensity of colour is one of the most important determinants of the quality of dried chillies, especially for chilli powder. The colour of dried chillies is commonly expressed in units established by the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA). Most commonly colour is determined by standardised laboratory tests (such as ISO 7541) but also by the use of colour charts. It is commonly accepted by the industry that high-quality chilli powder should have ASTA unite value higher than 120.
- The hotness (pungency) of dried chillies is an important trade factor. The pungency of paprika powder is determined by its capsaicin content. If the capsaicin content is below 30 µg/g, dried paprika is not called chilli but sweet. The most preferred method of measuring capsaicin content is high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The pungency level is expressed in Scoville heat units (SHU) and ranging from 900-3000 for mild chillies (such as ancho) to >100000 for extra hot chillies (such as habanero).
- The size of the individual flakes or powder particles is used to describe the physical appearance of dried crushed or ground chillies. The actual size of the powder or flakes is measured by micrometre or mesh count. The mesh count is the number of threads in each centimetre. Larger mesh size indicates smaller particles, while smaller mesh indicates a larger sized particle in the final product. The most common mesh of crushed flakes is between 5 and 8.
According to physical and chemical specifications crushed and ground dried chillies are typically classified into 4 quality categories. Whole dried chillies are classified into 3 quality categories where the size is set for 9 commercial types of chillies by the UNECE standard. However, according to this standard, sizing of whole dried chilli peppers is mandatory only for ‘Extra’ Class and Class I.
Food safety certification
Although food safety certification is not obligatory under European legislation, it has become a must for almost all European food importers. Most established European importers will not work with you if you cannot provide some type of food safety certification proof as the basis for cooperation.
The majority of European buyers will ask for Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognised certification. For dried chillies, the most popular certification programmes are:
- International Featured Standards (IFS)
- British Retail Consortium Global Standards (BRCGS)
- Food Safety System Certification (FSSC 22000)
Please note that this list is not exhaustive and food certification systems are constantly developing. The majority of food safety certification programmes are based on existing ISO standards like ISO 22000.
Although different food safety certification systems are based on similar principles, some buyers may prefer one specific management system. For example British buyers often require BRC, while IFS is more common for German retailers. Also note that food safety certification is only a basis to start exporting to Europe, but reliable buyers will usually visit your production facilities.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Companies have different requirements for corporate social responsibility. Some companies will require adherence to their code of conduct or the following of common standards including the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) or Business Social Compliance Initiative code of conduct (BSCI).
Exported dried chillies are commonly exported in bulk and packaged in carton, jute or polypropylene bags. Polythene cannot be used, as the flavour components diffuse through it. The size of the bulk varies according to the buyer’s requirements but usually vary between 3 and 40 kg but the most commonly 20 or 25 kg.
Dried chillies should be stored in dried and cool places, protected from the sun, heat, moisture, insects and other animals.
Each export package shall declare:
- Name of product, e.g. ‘dried whole chilli peppers’
- Net weight in metric system
- Shelf life of the product
- Lot identification number
- Country of origin and name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer
Lot identification and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer may be replaced by an identification mark.
A label can also include details such as dried chilli variety name, brand, drying method, quality category or pungency.
In the case of retail packaging, product labelling must be in compliance with the European Union Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers. This regulation defines nutrition labelling, origin labelling, allergen labelling and minimum font size for mandatory information more clearly.
- Use standardised laboratory tests (such as ISO 7541 and HPLC) for the product specification of dried chillies.
- Be sure to declare any addition of allowed ingredients in your dried chilli peppers. Addition of not declared additives can be understood from your buyer as cheating and ruin your image on the European markets. Some examples of undeclared additives to improve low-quality chilli peppers discovered by European laboratories include colour enhancers (such as artificial food colours or tomato powders) or flavour enhancers (such as essential oils or oleoresins).
- Read more about transport and storage requirements for dried chillies on the website of Transport Information Services.
- Follow the European Spice Association's Quality Minima Document on the chemical and physical parameters that your dried chillies need to comply with.
- Do a self-assessment through the producer starter kit from the BSCI website.
Organic dried chillies
To market dried chillies as organic in Europe, they must be grown using organic production methods according to the European legislation. Growing and processing facilities must be audited by an accredited certifier before you may put the European Union’s organic logo on your products, as well as the logo of the standard holder, for example, Soil Association in the United Kingdom and Naturland in Germany.
Note that importing organic products to Europe is only possible with an electronic certificate of inspection (e-COI). Each batch of organic products imported into the EU has to be accompanied by an electronic certificate of inspection as defined in Annex V of Regulation defining imports of organic products from third countries. This electronic certificate of inspection has to be generated via Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).
For the overview of the developments of the sustainability initiatives in the European spices market read our study on Trends on the European Spices and Herbs Market.
Two most commonly used sustainability certification schemes are Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance. Fair Trade international has developed a specific standard for herbs, herbal teas and spices for small-scale producer organisations. According to this standard, a premium price of 15% over and above the negotiated price between producer and seller must be established.
In order to improve sustainable production and sourcing of spices, a group of mainly European companies and organizations formed the Sustainable Spice Initiative in 2012. The major objective of this initiative is to strive for fully sustainable spice production and trade in the sector.
The Islamic dietary laws (Halal) and the Jewish dietary laws (Kosher) propose specific restrictions in diets. If you want to focus on Jewish or Islamic ethnic niche markets, you should consider implementation of Halal or Kosher certification schemes.
- Consult the Sustainability Map database for sustainability labels and standards
- Check the guidelines for imports of organic products into the European Union to familiarise yourself with the requirements for European traders.
The European food industry uses ground chillies in significant quantities, especially in the production of meat such as sausages, salamis or patés. It is also used as an ingredient in spice mixtures, sauces, soups and ready meals.
How is the end market segmented?
The largest user of dried chillies in Europe is the food processing industry, followed by retail, foodservice and food ingredients (additive segments).
Chart 1 - End market segments for dried chillies in Europe
Food processing segment
The food processing segment is roughly estimated to account for 60-70% of the usage of dried chillies on the European market. The largest users within the food processing segment include spice mixture producers, the meat industry and the sauces and seasonings industry.
Spice mixture producers are companies specialised in the production of spices and seasonings for different applications. Those companies are constantly investing in research to develop custom formulations for food processing companies and help launching new attractive tastes. They produce either dried or liquid spice ingredients. Some examples of spice mixtures and ingredients companies are AVO (German producer, part of the European group), Meat Cracks, Kerry Ingredients, Frutarom, Farevelli Group, Food Ingredients Group, Kalsec, EHL Ingredients or Ion Mos.
The meat industry is the most important user of dried chillies but very often not supplied directly but through spice and food ingredient companies. However, some larger groups of companies may import dried chillies directly. An example of such a group includes OSI Food Solutions. Dried chillies are used in the production of sausages and other meat specialities. However customised mixtures (with chillies as the ingredient) are more commonly used by meat processors.
The European sauces and condiments industry is also an important user of dried chillies. However the market is dominated by international brands such as Kraft Heinz, McCormick, Maggi (Nestle).
The retail and foodservice segments are dominated by European (often national) brands, such as Fuchs, Verstegen, Euroma, Santa Maria (Scandinavian countries) and multinational brands such as McCormick, Kraft Heinz etc. Also, some strong brands are developing in south East Europe such as Prymat Group.
Private label (supermarket) brands are important as well. Production for all these brands is conducted by European spice packers and blenders. Since supermarkets often require large quantities and have very specific requirements regarding packaging, it is very difficult to supply them directly. Products already packed in origin countries are mainly found in European ethnic markets.
The retail sector can be further segmented into supermarkets, independent grocers and specialty shops. Most retailers sell individually packed spices or herbs, or they sell specific mixtures. Overall, spice and herb mixtures are becoming more popular in the retail segment, partly due to the increasing interest in ethnic food.
Leading supermarket chains in Europe include Tesco, Carrefour, Lidl, Metro, Aldi, Delhaize, Rewe, Edeka, Auchan and Albert Heijn.
The foodservice segment (hotels, restaurants and catering) is usually supplied by specialised importers (wholesalers). The foodservice segment often requires specific packaging of dried chillies, which is different from bulk or retail packaging (for example from 1 to 5 kg) packs.
World cuisines, healthy food and food enjoyment are the major driving forces in the foodservice channel in Europe. The fastest-growing business types are likely to be new (healthier) fast food, street food, pop up restaurants, international cuisines and sandwich bars.
- To find potential buyers for your dried chillies within the food ingredient segment search the list of exhibitors of the specialised trade fair Fi Europe.
The most important channel for dried chillies in Europe is represented by the specialised spice importers. However, sometimes dried chillies can be placed on the market through agents or directly supplied to food processors or food service companies. Some wholesalers also have packing facilities and usually supply private label dried chilli brands.
Importers / Wholesalers
Importers and wholesalers can be general spice importers or further specialized in specific roles. Some now exclusively deal with ingredients aimed at the processing industry while others pack dried chillies for retail chains. Some importers also deal with a broader range of products apart from spices, such as beans or seeds.
The position of the importer and food manufacturers are put under pressure by retail. The higher requirements from the retail industry determine the supply chain dynamics from the top down the chain. Pressure is translated into lower prices but also added value aspects such as ‘sustainable’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘fair trade’ products. Transparency in the supply chain is needed. To achieve this, many importers develop their own codes of conducts and build long-lasting relationships with preferred Developing Country suppliers.
Examples of bulk importers of dried chillies in Europe include Albarracin (Spain), Nedspice (the Netherlands), European Spice Services (the Netherlands), Husarich (Germany) or Saran Enterprises (Poland).
An example of a spice importer which is supplying several different segments includes ISFI Spices (Belgium).
Chart 2: Trade channels for dried chillies in Europe
Brokers and agents are intermediaries who bring buyers and sellers together. They charge a commission for their services. European buyers can be trading companies, but they are mostly processors. Agents and brokers are interesting in the event that you have a specialised product (such as high quality or sustainable) for which buyers are harder to find. The role of the agent is slowly diminishing due to the increased transparency demanded by the market.
For an overview of different food processing segments and retail using dried chillies read our chapter above.
What is the most interesting channel for you?
Specialised importers seem to be the best contact for placing dried chillies to the European market. This is specifically relevant for new suppliers as supplying the retail segment directly is very demanding and requires a lot of quality and logistical investments.
However, packing for private labels can be a good option for well-equipped and price competitive producers. Still, private label packing is often done through importers that are making contracts with retail chains in Europe. As the cost of the workforce in Europe is increasing importers of dried chillies sometimes search for the opportunities to pack brands in developing countries if they can assure full traceability and quality control.
Which countries are you competing with?
China by far the leading supplier of dried chillies to Europe
China is the second largest exporter and producer of dried chillies in the world (after India) but the leading European supplier. Most of the Chinese dried chillies production goes for export. Chillies have reached production of more than 300 thousand tonnes of which almost 70% is exported. China is focusing its exports on high-quality products, suffering shortages in low and medium quality due to labour shortages and unfavourable weather.
Over the last 5 years, China has constantly increased the export of dried chillies by an average annual growth rate of 21%. In 2018, Chinese exports of dried chillies reached 210 thousand tonnes. Of this quantity almost 30% is exported to the European Union. The Chinese export of dried chillies is mainly concentrated to Spain. Spain is accounting for 75% of all Chinese exports to Europe.
China is the most competitive dried chillies supplier to Europe in terms of prices. Chinese export prices of dried chillies are much lower compared to suppliers from other countries. Also, Chinese laboratory controls for contaminants seem more reliable compared to Indian laboratories (especially related to measuring the levels of aflatoxins). Additionally, many Chinese processors have introduced steam sterilisation to minimise contamination risks.
Major production areas of chillies in China are Shandong, Xinjiang, Henan, Shanxi, Hebei and Gansu. Also, the province Guizhou specifically started to promote Chinese chilli production by the organisation of the annual International Chilli Expo. Chinese chilli production is mostly confined to low heat ones. Very popular chilli cultivars used for drying in China include ‘chaotian’ (‘facing heaven chilli’), more used for grounding into the powder, and ‘yidu’ which is more used for crushing into flakes. Other varieties include Jinta, Tieban, Xian and Er Jing Tiao.
Apart from the competitive prices, Chinese companies are successful in international promotion. The majority of Chinese dried chilli producers actively participate in international trade fairs on the national pavilions. Also many of them are efficient in terms of delivery (such as reaching the import destination within 2 weeks from signing the contract) or payment (asking only for partial advance payments).
Spain, the leading processor and trader of dried chillies within Europe
For developing country suppliers it is important to understand that many Spanish dried chilli processors should not be seen as competitors but as potential partners as they import chillies from other countries, but mostly from China.
Spanish production of dried chillies is not self-sufficient neither price competitive in comparison to other agricultural sectors. Domestic production in Spain is facing difficulties to be profitable as farmers are requesting higher prices (currently around €3/kg) to cover production costs and to pay workers. Workers are frequently hired from East European countries as the domestic workforce seems to be too expensive for competitive production. Decreasing domestic production is supplemented with imports thus offering opportunities for developing countries suppliers.
To learn more about the Spanish production of dried chillies read the previous chapter on leading importing countries in Europe.
India, world leader in dried chilli production
India is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of chillies in the world. However, due to increased control for aflatoxins presence by European authorities, Europe is currently not seen as a priority market for Indian dried chilli exporters. Instead, Indian export of dried chillies focuses on South-East Asian countries (nearly 60% export share) with Vietnam as the main export destination, United States (10% export share) and China (9% share). Export to Europe accounts for only a 2.3% export share with the UK as the leading target market.
According to FAOSTAT data Indian production of dried chillies and dried sweet peppers is estimated to be more than 2 million tonnes. Around 30% of this production is exported while the remaining 70% is consumed domestically. In 2018 Indian export of dried chillies to Europe reached 9,000 tonnes.
In India, major chilli producing states are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. There are many dried chilli varieties grown in India which are usually characterised by the higher pungency level compared to Chinese chillies. The most demanded variety by European buyers is Guntur Sannam S4 (also known as S-334) with a pungency level of 18,000–22,000 Scoville Units. Some other varieties include Dhani, Byadagi, Hindpur, Jwala, Kanthari White and Kashmir chilli.
Production and export of spices, including dried chillies, is monitored and supported by the Spice Board of India. The Spice Board of India is one of the most famous spice industry organisations in the world which is organising a World Spice Congress every second year. The Spice Board of India is also responsible for the mandatory testing of spices before exporting to the EU.
Peru, dried chillies exporter with a strong promotion
Peru is the sixth-largest exporter of dried chillies in the world, but exports have been fluctuating in the last couple of years. The total export of dried chillies from Peru reached a peak of 38 thousand tonnes in 2016 and decreased to 29 thousand tonnes in 2018. Export to Europe in 2018 accounted for 20% share or 6 thousand tonnes, which was a sharp fall compared to 2016 and 2017, when Peru exported around 10 thousand tonnes to European buyers. Export of Peruvian dried chillies to Europe is highly concentrated to Spain (accounting for 99% of their European export share).
Peru, one of the original producers of chilli, is producing and drying (and even collecting from the wild) different types of chilli varieties. The most famous Peruvian varieties used for drying are Panca (low heat variety), charapita (collected from the wild and more expensive than others), rocoto, arnaucho and cherezo. Since, recently the Mexican ancho variety is also increasingly produced in Peru. The most popular chilli variety in Peru is Amarillo but it is more commonly used as fresh and less for drying.
Due to specific offer Peru is mostly exporting dried whole chillies and reaching very high prices on the European market compared to other competitors (in average €2.5/kg in 2018).
The Peruvian region of Piura, followed by the regions of Lambayeque and La Libertad account for 65% of Peruvian chilli exports. Peru is very strong in export promotion supported by the national export promotion organisation, PromPeru. PromPeru has created a national brand ‘Superfood from Peru’, which is promoted on all leading international trade fairs. Additionally, the Peruvian Association of Exporters (ADEX) actively promotes Peruvian chillies and organises the International Capsicum Conference. There is also ‘the National Day of Peruvian Peppers’.
Thailand, emerging exporter
Export of dried chillies from Thailand shows a stable increase reaching 13.8 thousand tonnes in 2018. Export to Europe in particular has seen much growth, with the Netherlands being the main target destination. In 2018, the Netherlands imported around 4 thousand tonnes of dried chillies from Thailand (92% of total Thai supply to Europe). Thai dried chillies are mostly exported in the form of dried powder or fine flakes. Popular chilli varieties in Thailand are phrik khi nu (birds eye chilli of the Capsicum Frutescens species) and prik num.
Mexico, traditional dried chilli supplier
Mexico is increasing its export of dried chillies at a stable rate, but only a very small share accounts for export to Europe. Around 98% of all exported dried chillies actually goes to the United States. The export share to Europe is insignificant – amounting to less than 200 tonnes, around half of which is exported to Spain.
The state of Chihuahua is the main producer of chilli in Mexico. Strong regions in producing dried chillies are Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Puebla, San Luis, Potosí and Querétaro. Mexico is famous for the production of whole dried chilli varieties. Famous varieties used for drying and related to Mexico include ancho, arbol, chilhuacle, chipotle, guajillo, morita, mulato, pasilla and cascabel. Habanero (very hot) and jalapeno (very mild) peppers are very famous varieties but mostly used fresh or pickled.
Some examples of Chinese dried chillies exporters to Europe include: Qingdao Taifoong Foods, Qiang Da Foods, Neihuang Xinglong Agricultural Products, Qingdao Boon Foods, Qingdao Johnson Foods, Hennan Sunny and Qiubei Yunnong Agro Products.
Just for illustration, good examples of successful promotion include Qingdao Taifoong Foods and Qiang Da Foods. Both companies regularly participate in leading international trade fairs, cooperate with local farmers, supervise traceability and quality, and use recognised food safety certification schemes. Also, they use advanced technologies such as processing equipment and steam or microwave sterilisation lines. Another strong point is cooperation with well-known control bodies or laboratories such as Eurofins or SGS to guarantee their quality.
There are many traders and processors of dried chillies within Spain. It is not possible to list all of them but just a few illustrative examples including Juan José Albarracin (one of the oldest Spanish dried capsicum companies), El Clarin (famous grinding company with sourcing in Africa and Peru), Evesa (producer of food ingredients based on capsicum), Juan Navarro García (producers of chillies and oleoresins), Herbo Spice, Paprimur, Pimursa, La Chinata, Ramón Sabater, Dani, La Barraca and Chiquilin.
According to the Spice Board of India, there are more than 5 thousand exporters of spices in total and more than 200 exporters to Europe. Therefore it is difficult to make an illustrative list of selected exporters among many but there is a published list of exporters selected for certificates of merit.
Examples of Peruvian dried chillies exporters include Holguin, S&M Foods and Consorcio del Valle. Peruvian dried chilli exporters are investing into traceability and control of the whole supply chain in order to achieve high quality of the end product. In order to maintain the full control of the supply chain Peruvian dried chilli companies often produce chillies by themselves or closely cooperate with farmers and farmers' associations.
Examples of Thai dried chilli exporters include Nithi Foods, Penta Impex and Global Food. Leading Thai dried chilli exporters have recognised importance of the food safety and corporate social responsibility. Therefore they are investing into modern production processes and recognised certification schemes.
- In order to successfully penetrate the European dried chilli market you need to study the different strategies of your competitors. You may either offer competitive prices and safe products (like Chinese companies do), or offer unique high-quality chillies (like South American producers do) or customise your product to specific segments, such as organic. It is very important to learn from the Chinese companies, which strongly emphasise food safety control.
- Use the services of your national export promotion agency and actively participate in the creation of export strategies. Good examples include PromPeru in the promotion of the superfood country brand.
- Learn more about Indian dried chilli companies from the exhibitor list of the World Spice Congress.
- Regularly visit leading European trade fairs such as ANUGA, SIAL or Food Ingredients to meet your competitors.
The main substitute products for dried chillies are fresh chillies, pickled chillies and food additives based on chillies such as chilli extracts or chilli oleoresins.
European consumers are becoming more familiar with ethnic cuisines, which contributes to the consumption of fresh chilli peppers. The European market for fresh chilli peppers is still a specialised market, supplied primarily by producers in southern Europe (especially Spain), Turkey and northern Africa. To find out more about fresh chillies competition refer to our study on Exporting Fresh Chillies to Europe.
Pickled chillies are a relatively weak competitor to dry chillies as pickled chillies are used in a slightly different way and by different market segments compared to dried chillies. Pickled chillies are mainly used in the retail segment and by foodservice companies but commonly not by strong dried chilli sectors such as meat processing companies.
The largest supplier of pickled chillies to Europe is Turkey (with a 45% share) followed by Mexico, Peru, South Africa and India. The largest importer of pickled chillies in Europe is Germany, followed by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The leading producers of pickled chillies within Europe are Greece and Spain.
Food additives based on chillies
Paprika oleoresin (which includes sweet and chilli extracts) is manufactured by solvent extraction of the dried capsicum pods, followed by solvent removal. To learn more about usage of chillies for the production of food colours and pungency additives read our study about Exporting paprika oleoresin to Europe.
The seasonings and sauces industry sometimes uses chilli extracts instead of dried or fresh chillies in the product compositions. The base for many chilli sauces on the European market is often tomato paste with the addition of different spices. Although the name of many chilli sauces indicates the high presence of chillies in reality sometimes chilli extracts are used in combination with other spices and flavour enhancers (such as monosodium glutamate), stabilisers, acidity regulators and preservatives. Sometimes chilli paste is used too.
- Consider a diversification of your offer to health and food ingredient industries with the production of ingredients such as capsaicin or oleoresins. Prepare a good business plan as this diversification requires additional technology investments. Read more about those market segments in our studies on paprika oleoresin and capsicum for health products.
During 2019, dried chilli and paprika prices were on the rise in China and Peru, especially for high-quality products, due to a combination of poor harvests and increased demand.
India is still the largest global exporter. Its average FOB export price reached a peak of USD 2.16/kg in 2016, gradually falling as India has a huge crop and most exported product must suffer strict MRLs in countries such as the EU, the US and even Mexico. Between 2017 and H1 2019 average FOB export prices range between USD1.6-1.8, a sharp fall, matching the point about quality restrictions.
If we have a look at Indian chilli S4, CIF Europe (most demanded in the EU), prices followed that trend: a sharp fall from a record USD 2,725/tonne in the second week of March 2017, to USD 1,800-1,850/tonne from April 2017 to current weeks.
China and Mexico are the second and third largest global exporters after India. The Chinese annual FOB export price has ranged between USD 2.43-2.61/kg between 2015 and H1 2019.
Mexico is a case similar to India in price terms, its exports being focused on the US market. Annual FOB average price reached a peak of USD 2.15/kg in 2015, falling to a range between USD 1.6-1.9/kg between 2015 and H1 2019.
When exporting dried chillies to Europe, it is not possible to give precise information when showing the margins each actor in the supply chain receives as it depends on many factors. However, targeting the retail segment the rough estimation is that CIF for chillies in bulk price represent up to a maximum of 10% of the final retail price (usually less) of the retail packed branded product. This is because of the high margins of the packing operations and retail stores. Commonly, one retail package of dried chillies is weighted between 20 and 40 grams.
- To be regularly and timely updated about dried chillies export prices, consider subscribing to the IEGVu portal, which is one of the most respected market information services for food ingredients including spices.
- Monitor average weekly prices for dried chillies from the website of the Spices Board of India. Those prices are based on the reports of the USA based spice broker A.A. Sayia &Co. Inc.Hoboken.
This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Autentika Global.
Please review our market information disclaimer.