It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a foodie in possession of fine produce (and in pursuit of a tasty dish) must be in want of a spice.
Or so the tale goes.
The fact of the matter is, most people love food. Stating that a good chunk of our daily life revolves around food is not an overstatement, especially considering the number of food blogs, TV shows, and cookbooks available on the market.
And it’s hard to imagine a delicious meal without spice. One might argue that spices are on par with quality produce. As we live in the age of plenty and spices are ready-available for most of us, we don’t think about it on a more meaningful, deeper level.
Yet there is an abundance of details and compelling spice statistics that can make us pause and see spices in a completely different light.
So take an aromatic walk with us, and discover the hidden but fascinating world of spices.
Top 10 Food Spice Statistics and Facts to Season Your Life
- Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man.
- Cumin is the most popular and widely used spice in the world.
- Pepper is the top-selling spice in the world.
- Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.
- Asafoetida, annatto, juniper berries, and galangal are among the rarest species on earth.
- Out of 109 spice varieties officially listed by ISO, India produces around 75.
- Cloves have powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Certain types of spices have psychoactive properties.
- In 2018, the highest consumption of pepper per capita was recorded in Bulgaria.
- Five-spice powder is one of the most common and essential spice blends used in Chinese cuisine.
Spice Facts and Stats Everyone Should Know
1. Contrary to popular belief, leaves are not considered spices.
(The Spruce Eats)
Dried seeds, bark, berries, roots, twigs, or any other part that is not the leafy part of a plant and used to flavor and season food are considered a spice. On the other hand, leaves are not considered spices, despite being used to season and adding more flavor to a dish. Namely, they are denoted as herbs, according to the facts about spice classification.
2. Spices were first used unintentionally by hunters and gatherers.
(McCormick Science Institute)
By wrapping meat in various leaves, hunters and gatherers inadvertently discovered that this not only preserved the meat for longer but also improved its taste. Later, they started adding berries, seeds, and tree bark, which slowly started the long history of our spice use.
3. Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man.
(BioWeb, The Irish Times)
By the 1500s, cinnamon had already been traded all over the world, yet the spice itself has been known since the time of Ancient Egypt when it was used during the embalming process.
While Ancient Egyptians didn’t know about microbes and their role in the decay of organic matter, they did notice that spices such as cinnamon prevent decay. Hence, they were mixed in their complex embalming concoctions.
4. Cumin is the most popular and widely used spice in the world.
(NPR, Urban Cultivator)
Despite the indefinite number of food spices types used worldwide, cumin seems to sit at the very top and is most commonly used to season food all around the world. And for those who love cumin just as much as history—this fragrant spice has been around for at least 4,000 years. It can be traced back to the first written language, Sumerian.
5. Turmeric is one of the most popular spices in India.
(The Culture Trip)
As a country that’s intrinsically linked with spices, India is rich when it comes to seasoning. And turmeric is its unsung king. Used not just to add flavor to food and induce outpouring of saliva as its warm aroma wafts through the air, it has been used as a dye and in traditional Siddha medicine.
6. Spicy food trends in 2019 show the growing popularity of chili peppers.
According to a 2019 research done by Kalsec, people are increasingly opting to consume hot and spicy foods, driving the popularity and demand for chili peppers. The global survey showed that more than 50% of consumers opted to order or cook hot and spicy foods containing chili peppers.
7. Asafoetida, annatto, juniper berries, and galangal are among the rarest species on earth.
(The Kitchn, Bon Appetit, HealthLine, VeryWell Health, Seasoned Pioneers)
Naturally, the list goes on and includes other wondrous spices such as fenugreek, grains of paradise, sumac, and caraway seeds.
When it comes to the popularity of spices in foods, statistics reveal that most of these flavorful condiments are not exceptionally expensive. They simply, for various reasons, haven’t made it into the mainstream spices industry.
Still, trying out various spices is a wonderful way to be playful and travel without even leaving your kitchen.
Spice Industry Statistics to Keep in Mind
8. The food spice market size reached $13.7 billion in 2019 and was forecast to reach $15.4 billion in 2020.
(Grand View Research)
The market is expected to grow by 6.3% between 2020–2027. The drive behind this growth is the combination of a demand for ethnic tastes and products and curiosity about new flavors in general. Naturally, the customers’ willingness to pay the premium price for such a luxury is key to the market’s expansion and growth.
9. Ajinomoto Co, Inc., Ariake Japan Co, Ltd, Associated British Foods plc, and Kerry Group are the leading players in the spices and seasonings market.
(Grand View Research)
The spices and seasonings market is fragmented due to a large number of both international and domestic players. Therefore, the competition in the spice industry is fierce. Many other manufacturers are in the race, including McCormick & Company, Inc., Baria Pepper, Dohler Group, Everest Spices, etc.
10. Top exporters of spices in 2018 were China and India.
With China earning $582 million and India $373 million in 2018, the spice market is well and booming. Other countries that can rightly be named the top food spices exporters include Netherlands, Iran, and Germany.
11. The US was the biggest importer of spices in 2018.
In 2018, the United States imported spices worth around $282 million. They are followed by Germany ($156 million), the Netherlands ($147 million), the UK ($119 million), and Saudi Arabia ($117 million).
12. Pepper is the top-selling spice in the world.
Worth around $4.1 billion in 2018 globally, pepper consumption is on the rise. Vietnam leads in pepper consumption by country, with 166,000 tonnes (2018), followed by India with 86,000 tonnes and the US with 68,000 tonnes. Combined, it makes for the 41% share of worldwide usage.
By 2025, the pepper market volume is expected to reach 840,000 tonnes. Vietnam is also the world’s leading producer of black pepper, which can cost up to $3 per pound.
13. Vanilla is the second most traded spice in the world.
Worth around $821 million in imports on the global scale in 2016, vanilla is predominantly exported from Madagascar, Mauritius, and Indonesia.
According to the spice statistics, ginger— the spice with a punch—is the third most traded spice globally. Its import was worth around $757 million in 2016, with China and Netherlands being the world’s biggest ginger exporters.
14. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.
At $5,000 per pound, one is not likely to buy saffron in bulk. According to spice farming data, saffron is predominantly grown in Iran and is expensive because it’s hard to grow and harvest.
Ideally, the flowers are picked by hand, as it’s necessary to separate the stigma (the female part of the plant) from the rest since that’s the part that has to be dehydrated to be used as a spice.
15. Vanilla, cardamom, clove, and cinnamon are among the world’s most expensive spices.
While not even close to the eye-watering, heart palpitations-inducing saffron, the food spice statistics show that vanilla at $200 per pound, cardamom at $30 per pound, clove at $10 per pound, and cinnamon at $6 per pound all command a neat price.
Yet, despite the steep prices, the food spice market sales numbers indicate we are willing to pay for the pleasure.
16. Out of 109 spice varieties officially listed by ISO, India produces around 75.
(Indian Online Spices)
While finding out the exact number of food spices used and grown worldwide is a mission even the omnipotent Tom Cruise would fail to finish successfully, the available food spice industry data shows that India is the world’s leader when it comes to the varieties of spices they produce.
India is also among the leading countries in food spices consumption and export, with only China being ahead of them.
17. India is also the largest producer of ginger, turmeric, chili pepper, and cumin.
(Indian Online Spices)
Additionally, India is the second-largest producer of cardamom, while Indonesia leads in the production of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
The Health Benefits and (Potential) Harms of Spice Consumption
18. Cinnamon can help with an upset stomach and lower the pain in minor cuts.
As it turns out, cinnamon is not only great when it comes to making our mouths water in expectation of a delicious cake, but it can also help with stomach pain, diarrhea, gas, and better digestion.
What’s more, by using cinnamon toothpaste, we can kill bacteria in our mouth that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, the cinnamon health facts indicate.
19. Cloves have powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
While adding cloves to our foods and beverages adds that distinct aroma, cloves are also rich in manganese, and clove oil contains eugenol, which is known to successfully dull pain and fight infections.
Even if you only want to use cloves to add flavor to your food, the spice has benefits such as improving your immunity, fighting the flu bug, and improving your digestive system.
20. Certain types of cancer could be hindered by ginger, a study on various types of food spices indicates.
While more research is necessary, there are indications that prostate, gastric, ovarian, colorectal, skin, breast, and liver cancer could be slowed down via bioactive ginger molecules. Additionally, ginger can also help with menstrual cramps, lower “bad” cholesterol, and alleviate nausea.
If you think this miracle food spice and its use cannot stretch further, it seems it still has more power to dispense. It can help with muscle pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and digestion.
21. Turmeric is a natural antibiotic and a potent antioxidant.
Being one of the most-loved Indian food spices, the health benefits of turmeric are impressive. Due to the high curcumin levels, this diverse spice can help in shielding against lung and liver damage and cancer. And just like ginger, turmeric can help with arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
22. Curry powder is a heady mixture that can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Curry powder is a curious but much-loved blend of chili pepper, turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, and cumin. However, it can also contain black pepper, fennel, ginger, mustard, and curry leaves.
The spice benefits for food are well-known when it comes to curry powder, but it can also benefit your heart, fight cancer cells, help your digestive system, and lower blood sugar levels. Due to its complex mix of spices and herbs, chili powder also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects.
23. Cayenne is a natural aid for healthy weight-loss.
By boosting metabolism naturally, cayenne helps curb hunger pangs and speed up fat burning. However, since cayenne comes from fairly hot chili pepper, facts show that this popular spice also contains anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Furthermore, cayenne packs plenty of vitamin E, which helps protect against cancer, heart problems, and aids digestion and circulation.
24. The spicy food facts show that hot spices like chill can cause problems for people with irritable bowel syndrome, IBD, dyspepsia, or anal fissures.
(UChicago Medicine, National Library of Medicine)
While hot spices and spicy food, in general, can help with our overall health, especially because many spicy pepper varieties pack plenty of capsaicin, people with the health issues mentioned above should steer clear from overly hot food spices.
25. It was wrongly believed that people with stomach ulcers should avoid chili peppers.
(SCMP, UChicago Medicine)
There was a misconception that people with stomach ulcers should avoid hot spices like chili, the facts indicate.
However, a recent study found that capsaicin helps inhibit the secretion of acid and, in turn, promotes better mucus secretion and alkali and gastric mucus blood flow, which serves to both heal ulcers and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
26. Certain types of spices have psychoactive properties.
Spices we all know and love because of their specific taste, such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, chili peppers, cacao, cloves, nutmeg, saffron, and black pepper all have positive, though mild, effects on our mood.
Via harmonizing our endogenous cannabinoid system and not just our palate, these spices can make us feel better, a recent study on the food spice benefits revealed.
Spices in Foods: Consumption Facts Across the Globe
27. In 2018, the highest consumption of pepper per capita was recorded in Bulgaria.
According to the spice demographics data, Bulgaria’s spice loving people consumed 7,641 kg of pepper per 1000 people. This is followed by Singapore, with 5.288 kg of pepper per 1000 people, and Vietnam, with 1.724 kg of pepper per 1000 people.
28. US spice consumption data shows that Americans consumed 3.7 pounds of spices per capita in 2015.
This figure has tripled from 1.2 pounds consumed per capita in 1966. However, although Americans love spices, they don’t grow enough and are more focused on soybeans and corn.
The US is one of the biggest importers and consumers of the most popular food spices, such as cinnamon, mustard, oregano, several pepper varieties, sesame, and vanilla.
29. Around 57% of the global cinnamon consumption was divided between only four countries in 2016.
Indonesia, with 44K tonnes, China with 37,000 tonnes, the U.S with 26,000 tonnes, and India with 25,000 tonnes are the global leaders in cinnamon production. Additionally, Indonesia and China are also the global leaders when it comes to cinnamon production and the food spices facts and data show.
30. Five-spice powder is one of the most common and essential spice blends in Chinese cuisine, the food spices statistics point out.
Made with five spices—Sichuan pepper, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and fennel seeds, the five-spice powder can be traced back to the 4th century BCE.
Five-spice powder also has roots in Chinese cosmology, as it represents basic elements of wood, water, fire, metal, and earth. It is important in Chinese cuisine (and Chinese medicine) since it is believed that every organ in the body is stimulated with this blend.
31. According to the spice statistics, quatre épices or four-spice powder is a staple of French cuisine.
While it only shares one common spice with the abovementioned Chinese blend—cloves—this is a well-known and loved traditional spice in France. Made from white or black pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg, this spice blend is widely used in French cuisine in soups, stews, sausages, or even roulades.
32. Garam masala is one of the best-known spice powders in Indian cuisine.
Combining a seductive blend of black pepper, cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, clove as well as (sometimes) nutmeg and mace, this spice powder is all-present in Indian cuisine.
The food spice statistics show garam masala is mostly added to dishes like curries, soups, or eggs. Interestingly, this spice blend is usually added at the end of cooking or even sprinkled after the dish is served.
33. Pumpkin spice is the most popular spice in the United States.
The creation of the McCormick company in the 1950s, this blend of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon has become a firm fixture in kitchen cupboards across America.
While the love of this spice grows in autumn and it is, in a sense, harking back to the early days of America as well as their beloved Thanksgiving holiday, this blend has now been added to lattes, cookies, yogurt, and, naturally, a pumpkin pie.
At any rate, despite its autumn season peak time, it is safe to say pumpkin spice is not likely to vanish with the autumn mists, never to be seen or tasted again.
What are the most common spices used in cooking?
It would seem black pepper wins in this too, as most people cannot imagine cooking without it. However, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and chili powder are also very popular spices used all over the world, spice trends show.
What are the top 5 spices?
Yet again, black pepper is the king, followed by cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and chili powder. However, the food spices sales numbers show that curry powder is just as popular, and many foodies all over the world keep this instantly recognizable blend in their kitchen cabinets.
What are the top-selling spices in the world?
Yet again, pepper is at the very top of the spice pyramid and is the world’s most traded food seasoning. According to the available food spices stats, black pepper is followed by vanilla, ginger, and cumin.
What are the top 10 most used spices?
According to fairly recent research, it does come as a bit of surprise, but cumin is the most popular and widely used spice globally. However, the rest of the list is less surprising and consists of widely loved and used top food spices like cinnamon, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, garlic granules, and vanilla.
Where do most spices originate from?
It would appear that most types of food spices prefer temperate climates and are grown in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Spain, Kashmir, Iran, Greece, Jamaica, Nigeria, Madagascar, and Zanzibar.
Where did spices come from?
While the earliest written records mentioning spices come from ancient Indian, Egyptian, and Chinese cultures, the evidence, based on archeological findings, indicates that the use of spices dates back to pre-recorded history, to the hunter-gatherer groups who first used various leaves to wrap and preserve meat for longer. Later, it appears they added tree bark, berries, seeds, flowers, and roots.
In short, they invented food spices, the benefits of which soon became obvious when they went on to cook and eat their meals. In time, they slowly learned valuable lessons and preserved the acquired knowledge, which was then passed on from one generation to the next.
It is unthinkable to cook without spices today. One could successfully argue that we get emotionally attached to some of our favorite spices and can have a mini break-down if a certain powder, dry berry, or seed jar can’t be located when we most need it.
Yet, the spice statistics and facts presented here, while only a small part of the delicious story of food and seasonings, show just how deep and marvelous the tale is. These precious seeds, berries, roots, tree barks, and powders hold sway over us, invoking long-forgotten memories and making us feel happy or simply better after just one spoon of our favorite dish.
Learning more about spices and using them not only to make our food taste better but to harvest their intrinsic power to naturally aid and heal our bodies seems like a mission that should not be swept aside.
- Bon Appetit
- Business Insider
- Business Wire
- Farmer’s Almanac
- Food Dive
- Food Navigator
- Grand View Research
- Indian Online Spices
- Luxury Insider
- McCormick Science Institute
- National Library of Medicine
- NDTV Food
- Scientific American
- Seasoned Pioneers
- Taste Atlas
- The Culture Trip
- The Irish Times
- The Kitchn
- The Spruce Eats
- UChicago Medicine
- Unlocked Food
- Urban Cultivator
- VeryWell Health