Isolates, the precursors of natural molecules

Gemma Parramon
Europe Managing Director
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The beginning of the synthesis of aroma chemicals dates back to a few decades ago when the components of essential oils were identified. Having done so, scientists endeavoured to replicate them in the laboratory according to the organic chemistry synthesis treaties of the time.

This meant that many of the ingredients that make up essential oils could be synthesized industrially, which gradually and considerably expanded our palette of flavours and fragrances. However, despite organic synthesis, one group of aroma chemicals still has natural origins: Isolates. These include Limonene, Anethole, Cedrol, Estragole, Eugenol, Eucalyptol and many more that are isolated from Orange, Star Anise, Cedar, Basil, Clove and Eucalyptus, to name but a few. Many of them have become commodities today.

You may be wondering why some commodities are of natural origin but the vast majority are synthetic.

The answer lies primarily, although not solely, in the production cost. Nowadays, a natural Linalol costs over 20 USD/Kg, while a synthetic Linalool is less than 10 USD/Kg. Furthermore, Linalol is so widely used in our industry that it would be impossible to meet demand with what is obtained from ex-Hoo Wood Oil. Limonene and Eugenol, on the other hand, are clear examples of natural commodities. Nature provides them in abundance so it is more profitable to isolate them than to synthesise them.

The issue arises when any of the unknowns in the equation that makes them profitable varies substantially: if the demand for orange juice drops, less essential oil is produced and availability automatically decreases, pushing the price of derivatives up.

Once again, we can see how fragile our sector is and how important balance is in the broadest sense.

Natural Isolates? Absolutely, as long as they are sustainable.

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