Report on the IFEAT Italy Study Tour – January 2024

 

On Sunday 21st January 2024, over 50 IFEAT Members met at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Reggio Calabria for the start of IFEAT 14th Study Tour to Calabria and Sicily. This was IFEAT’s second Study Tour to southern Italy, the first was in 2009. This Study Tour was organised by a small Local Organising Committee of IFEAT Members: Antonella Corleone (Chair), Gianfranco Capua and Simona Caratozzolo, the IFEAT Secretariat and TMT, the local tour agent. The delegates from 18 countries were a diverse and multi-generational group, with a wide range of expertise and knowledge. Delegates included some major citrus oil producers,processors and end users from Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the USA. Sharing knowledge and experiences over a week provided a remarkably informative learning opportunity for everyone involved, particularly those for whom it was their first Study Tour and visit to Italy. Travelling together for a week, visiting 10 major Italian companies, and seeing the whole citrus supply chain from crop production, harvesting, processing, packaging,final products, storage, transport, laboratories, R&D and quality assessments, provided a remarkably informative and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. On arrival, delegates were presented with their rucksacks, gifts and briefing documents which included a detailed itinerary, maps and profiles of the delegates and companies to be visited. This was followed by a briefing session and then an excellent Welcome Dinner with music sponsored by Agrumaria Reggina. The Italy Study Tour began as it was to continue – convivial and knowledgeable people and companies, excellent food and gifts, almost perfect weather and with many insights into Italy’s essential oil sector, the economy, some magnificent scenery, and its complex history and politics. It proved to be a great success as confirmed by all the delegates and the many positive company and delegate postings on social media.

 

Each IFEAT Study Tour is both memorable and different. By the end of the Italy Study Tour on Saturday 28th January delegates had, over six days, travelled by coach almost 1,000 km in almost perfect weather through some beautiful scenery in Calabria and Sicily visiting some historic cities and 10 diverse companies –predominantly IFEAT Members – involved in a range of citrus activities and oils. Delegates saw and discussed at length several essential oils and other citrus products – bergamot, clementine, lemon, mandarin, blond and blood oranges. Each company gave a warm welcome and explained in detail aspects of the growing, harvesting, distillation and further processing of various citrus fruits and F&F ingredients, as well as supplying beautiful fruit drinks, several gifts and lots of calories through lunches and dinners! The companies were very open and enlightening about many issues including citrus production, processing innovations, the growing impact of climatic variations,the increasing importance of organic essential oils and their certification, sustainability efforts, organic production monitoring, packaging, traceability, and quality control. The visit to the Chromaleont laboratories at the University of Messina was particularly enlightening regarding the technical advances being made in analysing essential oils and their constituents. It was exciting to see the important strides and efforts that theItalian citrus industry is taking to increase the quality and scope of natural citrus ingredients and products. Alongside knowledge acquired from the visits and discussions with companies directly involved in essential oils, another important benefit was the interaction and networking between the delegates – all IFEAT Members from 18 countries and representing many different nationalities and some of the major players in the citrus oil sector. Another important component of Study Tours is the ‘bus lectures” that take place on the long coach journeys. Delegates make short presentations relevant to their work and enlighten other delegates on a range of topics. Short lectures on the citrus oil sector in Argentina, Egypt, India, Mexico, and Spain; developments in biotechnology, IFEAT’s expanding education and research programme, Ugandan essential oils, and Indian sandalwood. The food provided throughout the tour was excellent, the transport worked well as did the Whisper communication system. The gifts were much appreciated including the rucksack, scarf, perfumes, dispenser, and ceramics as well as the detailed documentation and books. A successful Study Tour is dependent on a collaborative effort by several players. Antonella Corleone and the Local Organising Committee must be congratulated on arranging such an excellent diversified programme of visits and TMT, particularly Alessandro Trapani, for implementing the planned programme so well. However, most important was the role of the 10 Italian companies involved who opened their doors and showed how the complex Italian citrus sector works, as well as illustrating the strength and support of the IFEAT family.

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Report on the IFEAT Focus Study Tour on Spanish Lemon January-February 2023

 

Following several postponements due to the pandemic, IFEAT’s first Focus Study Tour (FST) was held from February 27 to March 1, 2023, in southern Spain. Compared to the previous 12 IFEAT Study Tours, which were country orientated, the objectives of this first IFEAT FST were:

  • To focus on one major product: Lemon
  • Centered on one location: Murcia
  • A shorter duration of three days
  • Lower cost
  • Appeal to a wider range of participants in the F&F industries
  • Provide an overview of the lemon sector with visits to lemon orchards—both traditional and organic—as well as packing and processing operations alongside detailed briefings about the sector.

So, on Sunday, February 27 some 32 participants from 23 countries met up in Murcia for a whirlwind tour of the Spanish lemon sector. The delegates covered a wide range of ages and positions, including owners, CEOs, managing directors, technical, marketing, research and laboratory staff—but all were involved in essential oils in some way. It was a very mixed group that bonded together very well throughout this short tour.

IFEAT, with Sofia Lluch Chair of the Local Organizing Committee, organised the tour alongside AILIMPO (The Spanish Lemon and Grapefruit Interprofessional Association) based in Murcia and representing all the major stakeholders in the Spanish lemon and grapefruit industry. The FST illustrated what an important role a trade association can play in bringing an industry together and promoting its activities both nationally and internationally. AILIMPO, along with some of its major lemon-producing and processing members, was a key factor in making the tour such a great success.

In a post-tour questionnaire, every delegate rated each component of the tour very highly, whether it was the farm and company visits, the detailed AILIMPO presentation or the meals to the overall organisation. A range of superlatives was given including but not limited to: 

  • incredible first entrance into the wider world of essential oils 
  • a true eye opener
  • how wonderful and rich Murcia and the region are in terms of industry, nature, culture, and gastronomy
  • nothing but praise and awe for the organisers
  • such a wonderful well organised and fruitful FST

On arrival, the delegates received their delegate bag containing tour briefing documents and information and gifts from several lemon companies. Then followed a lively Welcome Reception at which the delegates met up (many for the first time) along with representatives of AILIMPO and the lemon companies to be visited during the following two days.

The next day began with an excellent wide-ranging presentation titled Sustainability and Global Strategy of the Spanish Lemon Industry by José-Antonio Garcia, the director of AILIMPO. Topics covered included past, present and future production trends (including organic), carbon and water footprint, sustainability, climate change and regulatory issues.

This was followed by visits to two lemon farms and a packing plant. El Aguilucho is a conventional orchard of 75 hectares producing both fino and verna varieties. Finca Comarza produces three varieties of organic lemon on 208 hectares, producing lemons throughout the year. A key takeaway from the visits was the scarcity and expense of water, accounting for approximately 25% of production costs. Innovative irrigation and water conservation systems using photovoltaic solar energy had been installed. Delegates were also informed about the integrated pest management, quality protocols, organic and mulching techniques, the use of shading to increase and extend yields, conservation of native flora and fauna and the substantial investments needed to achieve sustainability and research projects. Then followed a visit to one of the eight Natural Fruit Company’s packing operations. The company’s total annual capacity is 400,000 MT of fruit, obtained from both its own 3,000 ha of farms and 2,000 associated farmers. 

The final day was devoted to lemon processing with five major processing companies opening their operations. Most were family owned and each delegate visited two of the following companies: Citricos De Murcia (CIMUSA), Citromil, Fruit Tech Natural, Miguel Parra E Hijos and Riverbend España. Each company gave an introduction to their operations followed by delegates being shown the flow of lemons through the plant from arrival through washing and sorting, processing and packaging the oil and other products, visits to the companies’ laboratories, and quality control and testing facilities. In addition, some companies showed the innovative research they were undertaking to produce a wide range of citrus end products.

While the FST focused on the technical aspects of the lemon industry, there was also an excellent introduction to local gastronomy with lemon playing a key role. On the farm visits the outdoor lunch was a paella show by a well-known chef. Then followed an amazing evening, where teams of delegates under the watchful eye of MasterChef Arnau Paris, competed to produce a starter, main course and dessert, often with a lemon theme. The following evening saw a superb final dinner at the Michelin-starred Alma Mater Restaurant by chef Juan Guillamón, who created an ad-hoc menu with a lemon focus.

This was another outstanding IFEAT study tour from both an educational and entertainment perspective. Thanks to the considerable efforts of AILIMPO and its members within the space of just three days, delegates obtained a deep understanding of the lemon business model in Spain, from growing and producing essential oils—and being done with passion, love, and considerable effort by a great group of companies and people. The first IFEAT FST was a great learning experience as well as enjoyable and unforgettable. 

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Report on the IFEAT South African Study Tour November 2022

 

Since 2005 IFEAT Study Tours have provided some unique educational and cultural experiences in the world of natural essential oils. Travelling with industry colleagues from many countries, all eager to learn and exchange detailed knowledge about the fascinating world of fragrance, flavour, aromatherapy, and related ingredients, has provided lasting memories for hundreds of IFEAT Members that have participated on previous tours. As the world reopened following the pandemic, which had seen the cancellation of several planned tours, IFEAT was able to hold its 12th Study Tour which took place in South Africa (SAST) from 4th to 12th November 2022. Several years of planning by the Local Organising Committee (with joint chairs Catherine Crowley and Nicola Laubscher of Eucaforest), the IFEAT Secretariat, and Africa Awaits (the local tour agent) had gone into the SAST.

IFEAT’s first Sub-Saharan Africa event was the successful Cape Town Conference in November 2006. Sixteen years later, on 4th November 2022, some 35 IFEAT Members from 18 countries met up in Cape Town for the start of IFEAT’s first Sub-Saharan Africa Study Tour. South Africa is an increasingly important global supplier of essential oils, and the region is a significant producer of lesser-known indigenous essential oils and botanicals, increasingly used in new cosmetic and cosmeceutical formulations. The Welcome Reception and briefing were held at the Table Bay Hotel with beautiful views over the harbour and the imposing Table Mountain beyond. Some delegates had climbed the 1,086-metre mountain earlier in the day and enjoyed stunning views over Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula, flanked by two of the world’s largest oceans – the Atlantic and the Indian.

The tour began in the beautiful Cape floral region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the largest floral kingdom in the world, including the distinctive fynbos flora such as buchu, Cape chamomile, Blue Mountain sage, and Cape snowbush. Alongside fynbos oils delegates saw organic rosemary, lavender, as well as the Cape Winelands. Then on to Durban and the east coast for a Scent Creation Workshop and to see the production and processing of tea tree, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. The final day was spent on safari, incorporating stunning game drives and first-hand experience of fragrant and medicinal plants.

Following an initial briefing, the SAST began as it was to continue – convivial and knowledgeable people, excellent food and hotels, good weather, and many insights into South Africa’s essential oil sector, the economy, the diverse cultures, the magnificent scenery and wildlife, and the history and politics. For many, it was their first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. Each IFEAT Study Tour is both memorable and different. By the end of the SAST the delegates had taken two internal flights, stayed in six different hotels, travelled 4,750 km through magnificent and diverse scenery starting in the Western Cape, South Africa’s most southern province, to Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Johannesburg. While travelling around this large and beautiful country, delegates not only saw diverse environments and magnificent scenery but also sampled the rich heritage of traditional music, dance, crafts, costumes, and cuisines.

The eight days were filled with visits to diverse companies and organisations – all IFEAT Members – involved in a range of F&F activities. Three sizable family-owned production and processing operations producing a range of essential oils were visited in the Cape area. Each farm, covering hundreds of hectares, some of which was protected and devoted to conservation, was set in a beautiful location and the owners were passionate about biodiversity conservation and actively promoting sustainable best practices and benefit-sharing. Skimmelberg Fynbos Oils farm (www.skimmelbergfynbosoils.co.za) is organically certified and produces buchu, Cape chamomile, Cape May, Cape Snowbush, and rooibos tea. Lindsay Chicken and Paul Hartwig along with their colleagues provided detailed descriptions of the production, harvesting, and processing of these products. Mouton’s Valley Pty Ltd. (www.piquetbuchu.co.za), owned and operated by Eric and Michele Starke, has been producing buchu for over a hundred years, as well as a wide range of fruits. Today the buchu and other plants are cultivated rather than wild harvested as previously. Herbs-Aplenty (www.herbs-aplenty.com), owned and operated by Elmarie de Bryn and her son Pietersaral de Bruyn, produces a range of oils and herbs: rosemary, lavandin, lavender, Blue Mountain sage, African wormwood, and Cape chamomile – as well as a range of consumer products, including gin! Each of the above companies is evaluating possible new oils to produce. Whilst in the Cape, delegates had evening meals at the Gold Restaurant, serving a range of African cuisine alongside African dancing, and the Morgenster Estate prior to which was a wine tasting session.

During the visit to the east coast, four essential oil operations were visited. Ayanda African Oils (https://ayandaoils.com), is a farming cooperative founded by a group of farmers to sell their products jointly and share their knowledge on the production, processing, and marketing of essential oils. There are currently 31 shareholding member companies producing oils on over 700 hectares. Mathias Wessels, the General Manager, and his colleagues provided detailed explanations of the extensive operations. Ayanda currently markets seven essential oils – tea tree, lemon scented tea tree, rosemary, rose geranium, lemongrass, niaouli, and Eucalyptus Smithii and is currently investigating several other oils. The following day saw first a visit to Lion Rock Essential Oils, a joint venture combining decades of farming experience to become a world leader in producing organic Eucalyptus radiata oil. Dave Mitchell, one of the owners, shared his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm with the delegates on a tour of the farm. Following on was a visit to Oribi Oils (www.oribioils.co.za), a producer group collaboration between large scale commercial growers and disadvantaged emerging farmers, headed by Stuart and Lauren Bateman. Oribi produces several oils including tea tree, rose geranium, rosemary and Eucalyptus radiata. A highlight was a visit to the Khula Community Centre, supported by Oribi Oils, which provides feeding and educational programmes to the rural community as well as being superbly entertained by the Marimba Boys band.

Unfortunately the final company visit of the tour was delayed a day because the four small chartered aircraft taking us from near Durban to Ermelo were unable to land because of dense clouds necessitating a detour to Johannesburg and a long coach journey back to Piet Retief. A very early start the next day enabled the visit to Eucaforest Pty Ltd (www.eucaforest.com) to see the harvesting and processing of E. dives including into its isolated constituents. In addition, the delegates were entertained by the Eucaforest choir and dancers to a moving rendition of Jersusalema, the global hit written recently in Zululand. The final day of the tour was a memorable visit to Thanda Private Game Reserve, where delegates not only saw some of the icons of African wildlife and learnt about the aromatic, medicinal, and traditional usage of indigenous plants, but also had the closing “Bush Dinner” under the stars accompanied by African dancers and drummers.

During each company visit, delegates saw and discussed at length the production and processing of several essential oils. Each company gave a warm welcome, along with excellent food and drinks, and explained in detail the growing, harvesting, distillation, and further processing of various South African ingredients. It was interesting to see how each company was using different processing techniques to produce their oils. Moreover, it was exciting to see the important strides and efforts that the companies were taking to increase the volume and scope of natural flavour, fragrance, and aromatherapy ingredients. Finally, each company highlighted a range of projects in which it was giving back to the local community.

On every IFEAT Study Tour a great deal of time is spent on smelling oils, but an SAST innovation was an afternoon Scent Creation Workshop held at the beautiful Oyster Box Hotel at Umhlanga, overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Workshop (led by Frank Rittler of www.magnifiscent.gmbh) began with an overview of perfume history, fragrance structures, ingredients, and applications. The local companies had provided their essential oils, and these were used in practical work by each delegate to create and evaluate their own scent creations. It was an exciting experience for all – for many it was the first time to create their own fragrance.

A key feature of Study Tours is the interaction between participants from many countries and various sectors of the industry. During the long hours travelling together they share their knowledge and experience through individual discussions – it is an intense learning experience in an enjoyable environment. Nevertheless, considerable stamina is needed – early rises, often daily checkouts, much travelling and being on the go all day, late nights, and dinners. What was clear by the end of the Tour was that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and each returned to work refreshed and revitalised.

For more information on IFEAT Study Tours see www.ifeat.org. From 26th February to 1st March IFEAT organised a Focus Study Tour to see the Spanish lemon industry.

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Some quotes from the Tour

“The Study Tour was nothing short of amazing! From the committee and attendees to all of the farms we visited – it was a trip of a lifetime!”

“So educational- it was great to witness the complete process – from the preliminary stages of planting to the distillation and drumming of the material. It was quite the experience to see how each supplier had their own techniques. Most importantly, it was so touching to see how each and every supplier gave back to the community!”

“The SAST was well planned, and well executed. The experience allowed us to engage with folks from different companies and from a variety of functions (business owners, c-suite, marketing, sales, purchasing, QC, and R&D), which enabled a wide breadth of topics to be discussed throughout the trip in both social and work-related settings. Additionally, seeing the plantations and the various organisations and their unique circumstances in South Africa was a big educational lesson on the workings of an essential oils and naturals company. This type of exposure and learning is not easily accessible in the modern remote working environment or at our daily jobs because of most people’s singular focus on their own responsibilities and company.”

“The Scent Creation Workshop was a wonderful way to bring the experiences of visiting the plantations to a full circle since we used some South African oils in the process. In the end, the company, experiences, and learning were priceless to me, and I look forward to participating in future study tours and recommending others from my company to do so as well.”

“As a new participant on the SAST it was a Wonderful experience at every level. South Africa is a nice country with incredible landscapes and very large fields (I didn’t expect them to be that big). I was amazed by the passion and explanations shared by the different people we visited together with their very warm and friendly welcome. It was great organisation, despite some unexpected events/delays that have been handled efficiently. It was also an amazing ‘Melting pot’ of participants, with great group spirit – lots of memorable times and laughs and new friendships”

“Everything was so well organised, so informative and so much fun!!! I can’t fault it, Thanks for an amazing trip.”

Watch the IFEAT Study Tour of Spain video

Bulgaria Study Tour video courtesy of Konstantin Tzvetanov of Kolmax.

History of the 40 years of IFEAT!

 

Read Peter Greenhalgh’s “History of IFEAT” series. The full version in a book was given as a gift at the Athens Fortieth Anniversary Conference 2017. Each of these articles has been included in past issues of IFEATWORLD.

 

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