Though synthetic preservatives are a main staple in food and beauty products in the United States, natural preservatives are gaining ground. Food manufacturers and processors, ingredient makers, and cosmetic product formulators acknowledge that there is real consumer demand for clean-label ingredients. To meet this demand, they explore ways of replacing synthetic preservatives, examples of which include nitrites and parabens that are both linked to adverse health effects. Rosemary, jasmine tea, green tea, and grape seed extracts are among the natural preservatives that are emerging in the country's food and beauty industries.
Preservatives can be segmented, by function, into antimicrobials, antioxidants, and acidulants, according to an article published last year on Chemical & Engineering News, a magazine published weekly by the American Chemical Society. Antimicrobials prevent spoilage from microbials such as bacteria, fungi, molds, or yeast, while antioxidants prevent or hinder rancidity or changes in texture, color, or flavor. Acidulants, on the other hand, control microbial growth by paring down the product's pH.
Grand View Research reported early this year that the size of the United States food preservatives market in 2016 is estimated at USD 350.3 million and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 2.9% during the period 2018-2025. The research firm segmented the market by type (natural, synthetic), function (antimicrobial, antioxidant, others), and application (meat & poultry products, bakery products, dairy products, beverages, snacks, others).
Worldwide, there appears to be a preservative crisis in the beauty industry. The number of authorized preservatives in regulated markets including the European Union is getting fewer, and cosmetic formulators are having a hard time keeping up with evolving consumer needs and ensuring safety and effectiveness at the same time.
Similar to food preservatives, cosmetic preservatives are categorized by type into natural preservatives and synthetic preservatives. By function, they are segmented into antimicrobials, stabilizers, and antioxidants. It is estimated that the size of the United States cosmetic preservative market in 2017 is somewhere between USD 40 million and USD 50 million, and this market is composed of the following preservatives: paraben esters, phenol derivatives, quaternary compounds, formaldehyde donors, alcohols, organic acids, and others. In the United States, there are no special laws for preservatives; the U.S. Food & Drug Administration treats preservatives the same way it treats other cosmetic ingredients.
SYNTHETIC PRESERVATIVES IN FOOD AND BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Based on the Chemical & Engineering News article mentioned above, nitrates and nitrites are some of the most common synthetic food preservatives. Synthetic preservatives have long been used in food preparation as they are both cheap and effective. Typical synthetic or chemical preservatives in deli and cured meats include sodium nitrate, sodium acetate, sodium erythorbate, potassium lactate, sodium ascorbate, and sodium phosphate. In bread and buns, it is usually calcium propionate that acts as the preservative. Sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate, and propionate all belong to the antimicrobial class of synthetic preservatives.
Skin care or beauty products typically contain chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, and synthetic colors. Of these chemicals, parabens are the ones that serve as preservatives. Other synthetic preservatives include formaldehyde releasers, phenoxyethanol, and isothiazolinones. These synthetic preservatives may be linked to certain adverse health effects, but their effectiveness in controlling bacteria growth even at reduced concentrations cannot be denied.
The classes of parabens that are often used in personal care products are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, and isobutylparaben. They all assist in impeding bacterial growth and prolonging the products' shelf lives. While these preservatives are associated with risks of endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, and breast cancer, no conclusive evidence of the gravity of these risks has been found yet.
NATURAL PRESERVATIVES IN FOOD AND BEAUTY PRODUCTS
There is a real desire among consumers for clean-label ingredients in both premium and value brands, and food manufacturers and processors are actively looking for ways to address this desire. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), nitrates, nitrites, tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), propyl gallate, and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are chemicals associated with adverse health effects or health risks, so they are high on the list of ingredients that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recommends for removal from food products.
Since these food manufacturers and processors find it difficult to guarantee shelf life and food safety without using synthetic preservatives, they usually resort to a mix of synthetic and natural preservatives. The development of a commercial plant-based food ingredient takes time and may take longer than 10 years. The molecules with the preserving characteristics need to be identified for the creation of extracts that have little to no effect on food flavor-wise, odor-wise, and texture-wise. And the ingredient must be recognized by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as safe. Kemin, a food ingredient manufacturer based in Iowa, projects that plant extracts' share of their sales will grow from a third to 60% in just a span of five years.
As can be seen in the Chemical & Engineering News article mentioned above, natural food preservatives include celery juice, sugar, salt, honey, spices, vinegar, vitamin C, lactic acid, jasmine tea extract, citrus extract, rosemary, tocopherols or vitamin E, green tea extract, garlic, cinnamon, clove, and lemon juice. Salt, spices, honey, sugar, and vinegar are typical ingredients in deli and cured meats and bread and buns that could act as preservatives. Lactic acid could be used to control the bacteria Listeria, vinegar could be used to replace sodium benzoate, and rosemary and vitamin E could be used to replace chemicals BHA and TBHQ. Celery juice is a natural nitrite source, which Oscar Mayer, America's top hotdog brand, used to replace the chemical sodium nitrite. It is important to note, though, that the risks associated with nitrites remain regardless of the source.
In 2016, India-based Arjuna, which has operations in the United States, introduced its X-tend line, "a range of natural preservatives that keeps food fresh and increases the shelf-life of products." The natural preservatives are unique formulations of proprietary essential oil blends and oleoresins.
The natural segment of the United States' beauty industry has grown despite the fact that natural beauty ingredients tend to be pricier and beauty products with no chemical or synthetic preservatives tend to have shorter shelf lives. Oil extracts from curry leaf, clove bud, and cinnamon leaf are among the better-known natural cosmetic preservatives. Other natural alternatives include lavender, eucalyptus, green tea, and grape seed extract.
Natural preservatives may lead to environmental or skin benefits, but in terms of effectiveness and cost, they are generally inferior to synthetic preservatives.
Even though synthetic preservatives dominate the food and beauty preservative markets of the United States, natural preservatives are making headway. Players in the country's food and beauty industries recognize how much consumers value clean-label ingredients, so they look into possible alternatives to synthetic preservatives, especially those that are associated with health risks (e.g., nitrites and parabens). Natural preservatives that are surfacing in the country's food and beauty sectors include rosemary, jasmine tea, green tea, and grape seed extracts.