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Spice Consumption Keeps Rising.
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This country has a taste for spices today that won't quit. Last year, consumption snapped back from a poor 1988 showing to set a new all-time record. The 1989 total was a whopping 762,075,000 pounds -- above the 700 million mark for the first time. The gain was 121 million pounds over the '88 level, which had been deflated by crop failures overseas. Last year's performance included an 89 million pound increase in imports and a 30 million gain in domestically produced dehydrated onion and garlic. Domestic capsicums from both California and New Mexico increased as well, but U.S.-grown mustard seed declined 12 million pounds (though imports -- mostly from Canada -- gained nearly 13 million pounds).

The leading gainers among the imports were bay leaves (+ 170%), dill (+64%), red pepper (+64%), fennel seed (+38%), anise seed (+31%), celery seed (+29%), and cinnamon (+28%).

Spice consumption has increased steadily since WWII. However, some of the largest gains have come in more recent years. The nation's average consumption in the past five years has been 676,616,000 pounds, compared to 547,812,000 in the previous five years and 452,940,000 a decade ago.

The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) sees many factors contributing to the larger spice usage today: foods, especially in restaurants and manufactured food products; the boom in such regional favorites as cajun, creole, and southwestern; the consumer's aversion to salt, fat, and calories which demands heavier spicing to make healthier, but boring, foods taste good; and the trend to "all natural" ingredients for both color and flavor (Spice World, June 1990).

Article copyright American Botanical Council.