JRW FAQ | Spices, Herbs, and More

William Patton JRW Birmingham, AL

You Ask, We Answer

JRW is committed to answering the questions our customer’s ask most frequently. In this version of "You Ask, We Answer", we will address some common questions we receive from customers purchasing spices, herbs, and dehydrated vegetables.

First of all, what is the difference between spices, herbs, dehydrated vegetables, and seasoning?

It is a great question: The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) defines spices as “any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes”. This is a broad definition, so we have included some other thoughts and how we categorize these items at JRW.


Spices consist of plant areas other than the leafy bits such as the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. Some examples include Black Pepper, Red Pepper, White Pepper, Chili Powder, Paprika, Mustard Powder, Cinnamon, Clove, Cumin, Curry, etc.


Herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant. Common cooking herbs include thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, dill, rosemary, parsley and mint to name a few.

Dehydrated Vegetables

Dehydrated Vegetables are typically a dehydrated form of a whole vegetable. They aid in reducing freight costs and increasing shelf life. Dehydrated Vegetables include items like: Chives, onion, peas, carrots, garlic, and bell pepper.


Seasonings combine any of these three categories used to enhance the flavor or preservation of food.

When should I go direct to a manufacturer vs buying through distribution?

Well…it depends (don’t you love that response). At JRW, we use the following two benchmarks to help advise our customers:

  1. Do you buy over 500,000 lbs of combined spices on an annual basis?
  2. Do you have a procurement team with the time and focus to follow market trends and the risk tolerance/knowledge base to take positions on specific markets?

If the answer is no to both benchmarks, we encourage customers to arrange annual pricing with their end customers and fixed pricing with their supplier for the same time period. Due to this, you can limit your variable ingredient costs and focus on product profitability through freight efficiencies, inventory management, and cash flow optimization. If interested in seeing case studies, please reach out to us here.

If the answer is yes to either or both questions, it often makes sense for companies to arrange contracts directly with growers and refiners as the volume of their business and expertise of their team allows sourcing advantages distribution often times cannot match or beat.

What is the best way to buy?

A lot depends on if your end customers are willing to agree to fixed pricing and your company’s expertise and risk tolerance for contracting.

We also typically recommend that if your end customer(s) are willing to fix pricing for a period it is best to work with a supplier who will give you fixed pricing for that same period. This allows you to have fewer variable costs and focus on your company’s core competencies and revenue drivers. Sometimes this is not an option. If this is the case, it is important for sales and business owners to appropriately price products to reflect rises and falls in any varies markets.

What resources should I use to track markets?

ASTA is a great resource.

We also encourage customers to ask for market insights and reports from their suppliers. At JRW, we provide our customers with objective analysis of market insights from several growers and refiners to help educate and support their decisions.

How do I know the quality of the products I am buying?

The refiners, product documentation, and history and tenure of the company are three great places to start. This industry is a global, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic environment and understanding and aligning your company’s expectations with your suppliers and refiners’ standards is imperative. We often encourage purchasers and decision makers to have a conversation with their supplier on why they support a certain refiner or growth region for specific products. Product documentation details many of the specific characteristics of a product and helps R&D and QA know the quality and consistency of an ingredient. History and tenure of a company can indicate the knowledge base and expertise the organization has. This, in turn, can reflect on the reliability of their systems and procedures.

Is there a difference between imported and domestic product?

Food imported from other countries have different regulations concerning chemical treatments allowed. For that reason, painting a broad brush, there is a difference between imported and domestic products on quality and flavor.

Over the years, however, many imported products have improved in quality and constancy so our guidance for customers is to ask and understand who and where their supplier sources from. There are plenty of quality imported products, but it is important to understand the chain of custody and documentation attributed to any product you buy.

Finally, what is the difference between red pepper and cayenne pepper?

There is no technical distinction between red pepper and cayenne pepper besides the name. Therefore, some companies will associate cayenne pepper with a hotter grade of red pepper but the terms are interchangeable.

We typically see most of our customer reference cayenne pepper when the Scoville (SHU) ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 HU. As a result, anything below this range or in some cases above this range is often referred to as red pepper.

At JRW, we are driven to educate our customers and others in our industry on questions that are commonly asked. We want to encourage you to reach out to us with any questions you may have. Contact your JRW Regional Sales Manager or contact us here.

Stay tuned for more blogs of the questions asked most frequently in our industry!

Back to News