Beginning of an end or a new beginning?
Considering the impact of the pandemic and resulting inflation on the global mint industry
Within the US mint (primarily Peppermint and Spearmint) industry over the last twenty years, each time farm input costs have gone up, the acreage and production of US mint oil has gone down. Each of these declines in US production have resulted in price increases for US mint oils – leading flavor and fragrance companies to consider reformulation of their mint products, or even to remove US mint from their formulas.
I have three reasons to believe that the outcome will be different in 2022 and beyond.
2022 Indian mint oil production lowest in ten years
Historically, declines in US mint oil production have led to production increases in India, and while the oils differ in their organoleptic and analytical qualities, they were close enough to provide the much needed temporary alternates. This year is different, as 2022 Indian mint oil production was at its lowest in the last ten years owing to high input costs and low yields due to aging root stock. With farm production at historical lows, even the ability to extend Indian mint production using DMO and carvone won’t be able to fulfil the global needs, leaving the users to revert to US production in the coming year.
Even though current US price levels dictate a step change shift in pricing of finished blends and flavors, the availability of acreage, resources, and mechanization make US production a natural choice for years to come. On the other hand, piperita and spearmint production in India are expected to be hampered by smaller land parcels, water availability and a lack of economies of scale.
New opportunities in US mint production
In previous price increases, US mint growers had few options to boost productivity and trim costs. But the current challenges come with several new opportunities: availability of high yielding proprietary and patented hybrids, improved agricultural practices to cut costs, and a consolidated industry where fewer farmers manage larger land parcels resulting in significant economies of scale. Higher yielding varieties or varieties with amplified desirable components could be the solution to growers’ dilemma of whether to continue growing mint or not in the future.
Consumer preference for natural, sustainable mint oils
Over the last twenty years consumers and end-users have increasingly asked for traceable, natural, sustainably sourced ingredients that are free from contaminants and could be backed by globally recognized claims. Initially starting out as a boutique request from smaller brands, this trend has picked up in the last decade and a gradual understanding of the global mint supply chain has made US production a natural choice that meets all of these criteria. This shift is also made possible by the evolution and affordability of the technologies to identify contaminants at levels that were impractical in the past, giving the supply chain a fair platform to grade global mint.
What does the future hold for global mint production?
As we can all observe most business movements are cyclical and I foresee the mint supply chain reverting to a pattern last noted in the 20th century when the US produced the bulk of the global peppermint and spearmint oil and arvensis remained the bastion of other countries such as Brazil and Paraguay in the 1950s and India currently.
I see this shift as an opportunity for India to focus its resources on shoring up the arvensis supply chain; optimizing production, discovering improved hybrids, and investing in yield increasing practices for resource conservation and more sustainable production. There is a reason that Peppermint, Spearmint and Arvensis migrated for 100+ years before ‘settling’ in current geographies in the last 50 years and while supply and demand challenges are nothing new to agriculture, I am optimistic that the mint industry will find a new global equilibrium.
— Ankush Agarwal, Managing Director