Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Spice Spike Hits America During Pandemic

 By Cal Orey

The word is, an uptick in herbs and spices has left manufacturers scrambling to fill orders for hungry and lonely consumers -- longing for excitement, travel, and flavorful fare.

What gives? Blame the surge on the stay- at- home new normal. Herbs and spices have been touted as timeless treasures. Their draw goes back centuries ago, to the days of the spice trade. Seafarers searched for pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg which were a priceless commodity. And now, during a 21st century plague, we are experiencing another spice explosion, sort of.

The Covid-19 challenge has already played a role in our food chain. Back in March, we endured bare shelves – a lack of eggs to meat -- in our grocery stores.  But spices were growing in demand, too. As months passed, and during quarantine home-cooking, using herbs and spices became hot for people around the globe.  But in 2019 nobody saw the virus coming… 


Pre-Pandemic Introduction to Seasonings

Flashback to when I began my book research for The Healing Powers of Herbs and Spices: Timeless Treasures (Kensington Books -- bookstores to pre-order for Dec release), I found a big cardboard box on my doorstop—a gift. When I opened the package, I was greeted by a strong wave of different aromas. The box was filled with dozens of individual packets containing a variety of herbs and spices.  It was if they were all are saying, “Look at me! Choose me!” I took out each cellophane wrapped and labeled packet. There were rows of small packages on my dining room table. Each one was filled with powders, pods, seeds and stems--some familiar, some not. I brought out a kit of glass bottles with stick-on labels which I had ordered online and went to work filling each container with a dried herb or spice. Foolishly, I did not wear a mask. My eyes began to water, and sniffles started. I sneezed several times. I was experiencing the potent compounds in the botanical plants. But I persevered! Within a few hours, all my seasonings were inside the glass bottles and labeled. I was ready to arrange them in racks. It was time to start my personal journey into the world of herbs and spices.

Little did I know these timeless treasures would end up making a huge comeback during a pandemic stay-at-home lifestyle.

 Surge in Spices

            Why? Why did spices see a rise in growth during a pandemic? Well, there is a myriad of reasons. Here, take a look at some of the popular changes.

* As more people look to natural remedies as a way to avoid the side effects of drugs, the demand for usage of herbs and spices continues to build.

*Modor Intelligence reports that the seasonings and spices market  (think big like McCormick) has seen growth, with people wanting nutritional benefits – first and foremost.

* Celebrity chefs increasingly promote more natural, plant-based diets that include many herbs and spices for flavor, texture, health and visual appeal.

And people are having more sit-down immediate family meals like back in the fifties – and seasoned, flavorful food like we get eating out is playing role. What’s more, though the holiday season into the New Year, spice companies will likely enjoy a greater demand for favorite seasonings. Think cinnamon, cloves, garlic, sage, thyme, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. And since American households will be experiencing smaller holiday meals at home – spicing up recipes will add fun. Indeed, aromatic herbs and spices will be part of a homestyle safe haven chock-full of nostalgia from pre-pandemic times.  


Cooking Is Hot & Chillaxing

During stressful times people often turn to baking bread or cooking casseroles – familiar comfort food. While we cope with COVID-19 – losing a loved one to a job layoff, cooking connects you to a sense of normalcy. During stay-at home advisories, we cook more meals, and herbs and spices have entered our take-out and home cooking routine.

According to chefs, using herbs and spices provide different flavors and can create different cuisines, from Mediterranean to Indian – a connection to traveling which we cannot easily do right now.  It’s an escape to embracing different cultures and humanity – a way to feel connected during physical distancing.

Let’s face it. Staying well, whether with family, friends, or solo, is on our minds -- the key to vibrant health for all generations is in your kitchen… Anise, bay leaf, garlic, parsley, turmeric, and more—for thousands of years, herbs and spices have been praised for preserving and flavoring food, as well as preventing and even curing illnesses.

The latest research reveals that the seasonings already in your pantry—or easily found fresh in your supermarket or garden—can lower your risk for getting sick. Nature’s gifts including allspice, chives, fennel, oregano, pepper, tarragon, saffron, and special blends like Herbes de Provence are gifts during the holidays and year-round. And yes, herbs and spices can help guard against colds and flu, banish a hacking cough, and even ease stress and anxiety during challenging times.

Flying off the Shelves

Herbs and spices are part of a comeback and are predicted to be in demand during the pandemic fall to winter months. After all, dried herbs and spices are ideal to stock the pantry -- if we have to hunker down (again). Other good-for-you products are wanted, too. There is a scent-sational allure for aromatherapy candles and essential oils. After all, scented nature’s medicine helps keep the home cozy and calming  -- and us healthier and happier. 

And don’t forget, back in March when the pandemic came to America, cookbooks to flour, yeast, sugar and butter flew off the shelves in grocery stores. So, as we cope with a second wave, these items are popular again. Most likely, enjoying nature will help us survive during the predicted “dark winter” before we have a vaccine and can live our lives. Yes, herbs and spices and other things will get us through tough times until post-pandemic days ahead – with promise of hugging, gatherings, and traveling – the variety of spice of living.

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