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Essential oils make easy work for food manufacturers

Botanical Innovations is small company going places. Founder and managing director, Kerry Ferguson, is passionate about her products, which are powder-based commodities such as apple cider vinegar, zero alcohol wine, as well as essential oils, which are ideal for the food, nutraceutical, and health and wellness industries.

The company’s apple cider vinegar product is made from Australian Granny Smith apples and won the Food and Beverage Industry Awards’ Innovative Ingredient in 2018.

The powder is naturally fermented and has two main uses – flavouring, and as a natural preservative. Because it has a neutral taste, it doesn’t affect the flavour profile of the products where it is used, making it ideal for a large range of foods.

“As well as being easy to handle, powders have a much better shelf life than the liquid versions of the product,” said Ferguson. “The apple cider vinegar is going really well. We are exporting it to Europe, to the US, to Korea – it’s branded as its own product. We also have a lot of domestic customers. Because we use Australian apples everybody knows it is a clean and natural product. It is a versatile ingredient for supplements, foods, drinks and for all sorts of things.”

Another reason for using apple cider vinegar in the food manufacturing process is that there are potential health benefits including weight loss, lowering cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. It can also help in preventing and treating diabetes and alleviating asthma symptoms.

However, the one powder that is turning out to be popular is the company’s essential oil range, which offers a series of benefits to those who want to use them in their products.

“The market has reacted well to our oil powder,” said Ferguson. “It is good for the cosmetic market, as well as the food ingredients and health supplements markets. It’s pretty new and we are only just beginning to market it. It has taken us a couple of years to develop, so it’s not just a case of ‘hey I’ve got a great idea and we’ll just put it out there’.

“We have seen that the market is really receptive to it because, for them, it’s a lot easier to handle. With the liquid version of such oils, you have to put protective clothing on and things like that. The powder form makes handling a lot easier. Powdered oils give you all the advantages of an essential oil without the complexity. It helps that you don’t have to deal with added complications. It has taken quite a few years to get it right, but we are very pleased with the outcome.”

To make up a batch of the powder it takes about one tonne of oil to make 150 kilos of powder, so it is a ratio of about 10-15 per cent.

“We found that any higher than that it becomes problematic in terms of quality,” said Ferguson. “You don’t rehydrate the powder, you want to use it as a dry blend. If you are making a sauce, it still mixes in as a powder and you blend it accordingly.”

Botanical Innovations has done well over the past 12 months despite the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of companies have had supply chain issues, especially when it comes to getting ingredients from overseas. Most of Botanical Innovations’ raw products come from within Australia, however it also helps that there was a lot of forethought at the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic hit.

“Our supply chain has been good when it comes to the apple cider vinegar. We have either fresh apples, juice or juice concentrate. We have plenty of options,” said Ferguson. “In terms of supply for the essential oils, we’ve got good continuity in that regard. Some of the oils we make ourselves, and the others we buy in. Overall, we haven’t had a huge issue with supply. I know that there has
been problems with some of the shipping for some of our suppliers, but having said that they’ve still managed to fill all our orders.

“We also purchased quite a bit at the beginning of last year, which has lasted us for quite some time. We had plenty of stock available.”

Botanical Innovation’s success hasn’t come by accident or luck, just hard work and an investment in ideas.

“We spend quite a bit of time on research and development because there are lots of really interesting things you can do, and there are new products to make,” said Ferguson. “We are focused on building the markets with the products that are really selling well. Then we have a pipeline of new innovations that we are always looking at.

“There are also some really good tax incentive when it comes to research and development, which includes getting a good tax rebate. As a small company we have to be innovative and different, otherwise we would just go and buy ingredients from overseas and become a distributor. That is not what we are all about.”

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