24 Aug 2018 20:39 IST

Synthite, an export powerhouse

The diversified spice-maker has been winning the national award for Best Exporter for the past 36 years

A brand is usually considered successful if it has high visibility and immediate recall, but there are some that are unknown to the public, yet impact daily life in many ways. Synthite is one such brand.

Synthite Industries Ltd is an Indian oleoresin (value-added spice extract) extraction company based in Kerala. It supplies high-quality, natural ingredients to food, flavour and fragrance houses.

Oleoresins are pure extracts of spices such as pepper, capsicum, cardamom, nutmeg and mustard, and can replace whole or ground spices without taking away from the flavour or fragrance. In fact, they give a more rapid flavour release and product standardisation. This is the reason a Haldiram’s namkeen product tastes the same every time you buy a pack; a PepsiCo soda is the same colour; or you experience identical searing heat every time you bite into a Maggi Hot Heads preparation. Oleoresins also enable a longer shelf life.

Humble beginnings

In 1971, when the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru advertised in the newspapers for experts in the manufacture of oleoresins, the owner of a small industrial glue manufacturing factory at Kolenchery, near Kochi in Kerala, applied. CV Jacob’s application was accepted and, the very next year, he set up Synthite Industrial Chemicals Ltd. It later became Synthite Industries Ltd.

With each passing year, it introduced new products — the first product from Synthite was black pepper. The initial years were not easy as the technology was still in its formative stages. American and European companies, which could be potential customers, were sceptical about both the quality and the timely delivery of products. But the founder persisted and, through research and innovation, the company reached a point where its products became well-known and trusted for impeccable quality. Today, Synthite exports its products to major seasoning and flavouring companies such as Givaudan, Griffith Laboratories, IFF and Kerry Group.

By 1986, the company launched a fragrance division. Most of the orders came from abroad and in 1980, the government of India recognised Synthite as an export house.

Expansion across sectors

Today, Synthite is the world’s largest producer of value-added spice extracts, accounting for more than 30 per cent of the global oleoresin market. It offers more than 500 products — spice extracts, essential oils, herbal and floral extracts, liquid seasonings, antioxidants, phytochemicals and resinoids — which are used in the health & nutrition, personal care, food & beverages and agriculture & livestock sectors. It also offers industrial services such as product and process development, and sensory solutions.

Synthite products are widely used by the dairy industry and snacks manufacturers (flavoured milk, ice creams, fries, chips); beverage manufacturers (carbonated drinks, tea); cosmetics industry (shampoos, perfumes); pharmaceutical industry (tablets, syrups); ready-to-eat products industry; bakeries (rusks, cakes, candies); meat and seafood industry; and in sauces, ketchups and pickles.

It recently forayed into the consumer products segment as well, with special ingredients for different cuisines (Sprig); natural spices, masalas, pickles and pastes (Kitchen Treasures); and health products such as ginger and lutein (NatXtra). Synthite has also diversified into hospitality, realty and wind power.

The Synthite Taste Park is a private industrial park at Pancode, Kochi; the spice division is located there.

Pioneering work

The company has several firsts to its credit. In 1994, it became the first Indian company in the food sector to obtain ISO 9002 certification from BSI UK. It set up the first CO2 extraction plant for oleoresins in India. It has introduced several oleoresin blends and floral extracts (marigold extract was pioneered by Synthite). It has also tried nanotechnology to enhance the quality, hues and variety of the products it offers.

Synthite’s goal — ever since its inception — has been to provide natural alternatives to synthetic colours, flavourings and additives. Its tagline is ‘Inspired by nature’. To this end, it uses only the purest raw materials and offers specialised, reliable solutions. New products and applications undergo stringent testing procedures to meet standards regarding contaminants such as aflatoxins and pesticide residues.

All manufacturing/processing facilities of Synthite are ISO 22000:2005 certified. Apart from those in India (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), Synthite has units at China, Brazil, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. It plans to open two more units in the US and Indonesia.

The company has several certifications testifying to its consistent quality and hygiene standards: Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point; Food Safety System Certification 22000; Integrated Management System (QMS, EMS, OHSAS) - ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2007; Food Safety Standards Authority of India; ISO/IEC 17025:2005 - National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories; FAMIQS - Quality and Safety for Feed Additive Mixtures; British Retail Consortium; and Organic Product Certification.

Its other businesses include Symega Savoury (seasonings and ingredients for the food industry), Symega Flavours (solutions for food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries), Herbal Isolates (pepper products and proteins), and wind energy.

Farmtech is a backward integration initiative that collaborates with farmers for raw material procurement. About 5,000 farmers are part of this project, with Synthite maintaining a database and educating them about soil testing, seed selection and fertilisers. A coding system is used to track quality of the produce. These source materials are 100 per cent pesticide free.

Recently, Synthite entered into a 50:50 joint venture with EID Parry (India) Ltd for value-added algae products (especially the production of phycocyanin, the natural blue pigment from spirulina).

Collecting awards

Synthite’s turnover is about ₹1,500 crore. Its target is ₹3,000 crore by 2020. Its exports to the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific region account for 70 per cent of its revenue. This explains why Synthite, which received its first national award for Best Exporter (1974-75), has been getting the same award for the past 36 years!

It has also won the National Safety Award in 2009 and 2013 (factories and boilers) from the Kerala government. In 2012, the National Safety Council listed it as the runner-up in the Outstanding Safety Performance category. The next year, it won first place in the ‘Large Size Industries – Chemical’ category from NSC. Many more awards on safety and safety management have followed.

On the green front, its CO2 extraction plant relies on benign solvents which do not harm the environment. The company generates electricity and steam using its own agro waste. As a result, it won the Kerala State Pollution Control Award in 2014. It has explored other non-conventional energy sources — its fragrance unit at Marudur in Coimbatore uses wind turbines. Its corporate building has received the IGBC’s LEED India NC Gold rating for being ‘green’.

All CSR activities, including education, health check-ups and providing life skills to farmers’ children, are channelled through the CVJ Foundation, named after the founder. Synthite sponsors children suffering from cancer or in need of heart surgeries. Scholarships and insurance schemes are provided to those in need of financial assistance. The company’s employees, too, are offered interest-free housing loans, medical reimbursements and more.

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