Citrus Leading the Essential Oil Brigade February 1, 2020

A chilled glass of tangy lemonade in the summer heat or a juicy grapefruit at breakfast
– who doesn’t enjoy the zesty freshness of citrus fruits?

Citrus fruits have captured the human population since time immemorial. It was after World War II that the citrus trade expanded due to increased awareness of the nutritional benefits and, of course, better trade relations. Today, citrus forms an indispensable part of our lives. thriving in tropical and sub-tropical climes, citrus is cultivated across 140 countries worldwide. For the most popular citrus, orange, Brazil has displaced USA as the leading orange producer in the world. It also dominates world trade in orange juice production. The São Paulo region accounts for the lion’s share of almost 94% of orange production. Further down, Argentina is a force to reckon with as one of the largest lemon producers in the world. Complemented by stringent agricultural practices and advanced processing technology, the country has set new standards of performance to also leadglobal lemon production. south America’s competitiveness in the world citrus scenario is undisputed.

Citrus fruits ranging from lime to tangerine are the power solution for many of our vitamin requirements. But did you know that they can also play with your emotions? Essential oilsderived from citrus fruits have the power to uplift and invigorate. so much so that lemonessential oil has also earned the moniker of ‘liquid sunshine.’


Lemon, orange, lime, bergamot, tangerine, grapefruit and mandarin are the most common varieties of citrus essential oils. Cold expression or cold-pressing is the most preferred mode of commercial extraction since it keeps the ingredients intact. Unlike other essential oils, all citrus oils are acquired from the rind of the fruit. Among around 400 compounds, the key component of citrus oil is limonene that makes up around 97 percent of the citrus essential oil, depending on the citrus type. The remaining 1.8–2 percent represents alcohols, aldehydes, and esters. It is this compound that makes citrus oils powerful mood-boosters. They are generally phototoxic in nature, so should not be applied topically and then exposed to the sun.


The essential oils markets have witnessed a burgeoning demand for citrus oils in the last few years. Skincare, immunity, and mood regulation because of citrus oils’ ability to boost serotoninproduction, have created a citrus essential oils boom. the worldhas woken up to this foolproof freshness and consequently the requirement for citrus essential oils has escalated considerably.

Citrus has been esteemed as a source of a spectrum of distinctiveflavours – from acidic and zesty to sweet and full-bodied notes topungent and astringent tastes.

Citrus essential oils are also a must-have within a perfumer’s palette. Almost all perfumers use citrus natural fragrances for topnotes and ability to blend with other aromas.

The household and personal care industry also has been experimenting and employing the use of citrus. Increased usage of flavours, odourants, and pharmaceutical ingredients acrossdiverse end-use industries has resulted in a rise in the demand for citrus essential oils.

Another driver for this demand is the rising standard of living and high per capita income in emerging economies. Increased spending and the proliferation of the wellness and relaxation industries haveheavily influenced the surge in demand for citrus oils.

Growing end-user awareness has compelled producers to utilise bio-based and natural products. Beyond the industry use, consumer discernment about the immense health benefits associated with citrus essences has also increased considerably. Citrus oils have no detrimental side effects unlike most conventional drugs and medicines. Though many safety studies have thrown up some reservations regarding limonene, diligent usage and in moderation up to one year have proved to be low in toxicity for humans. It has been generally classified as safe (GRAS) by the Code of Federal Regulations, USA.

A combination of all the above, as well as the fact that citrus oils are reasonably less costly than most other essential oils, have pushed citrus essential oils into the much-in-demand category the world over.


Citrus oil is enjoying a greater demand than most other types of essential oil across the world. This trend is anticipated to remain so over the next few years, with citrus oil continuing as the most valued product in the essential oil market.

The wellness and aromatherapy industry is growing drastically; and witnessing significant acceleration in growth. Worldwide, preference for convenient, harmless, and natural alternatives to traditional allopathic solutions is rapidly increasing. Rising consumer interest in aromatherapy directly contributes to the revenue increase in the therapeutic massage oils segment. As such, it is an important driver for the global citrus oils market.

By the end of 2016, the therapeutic massage oils segment dominated the aromatherapy essential oils market and was valued in excess of US$ 700 million. Traditionally, Europe has dominated this market propelled by the growing wave of natural products in the EU. Germany and UK too are consumers of citrus essential oils. North America comes a close second, with the USA leading the demand for citrus oils. In fact, if preliminary estimates are anything to go by, America and Western Europe are expected to account for more than half of the global market by 2026. Worldwide, industry pundits estimate the global aromatherapy market to flourish at a healthy growth rate of 7.7% annually; and valued at over US$ 8 billion by 2026.

Let us consider a few facts. In 2015/16 the total global output of fresh orange (the most popular among the citrus) for processing was 17,647,000 metric tonnes. In January 2017/18 this number reached 19,242,000 MT. Global lemon oil is the second most in-demand oil in the citrus family, and lemon processing reached 1,515,000 MT rising in 2017/18 to approximately 1,604,000 MT processed worldwide.

Brazil is by far the world’s largest orange producer accounting for an estimated 21% of global production of 67 MMT with the USA and Mexico accounting for 7% and 5% respectively. USA, Mexico, and Spain also account for significant amounts of grapefruit. Argentina holds pride of place in lemon production, followed closely by EU, USA, Turkey, and South Africa.

Brazil is by far the world’s largest orange producer
accounting for an estimated 21% of global production.


Though challenges like inclement weather and citrus greening persist, there is no looking back as citrus reigns over the markets and is likely to continue to climb the global popularity charts in the years to come. Compelled by the ever-increasing demand for citrus oils infood and wellness industries, the segment is estimated to record substantial growth.

The Asia Pacific region is poised to become a front runner for driving citrus oil demand. In 2015, the market was valued to exceed almost US$ 90 million in the Asia Pacific region. Forecasts predict a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 5.1% with figures expected to reach more than US$ 100 million by the end of 2026.

In Europe alone, the segment is set to grow at a robust CAGR of 5.0% to go up to almost US$ 500 million by 2026.

If these indications are anything to go by, it is clear where the citrus oil industry is headed. Amidst this incremental demand for citrus across the F&F and aromatherapy sectors, there are some concerns regarding their perishable nature. The projected growth could be influenced by the low cost of production from emergent regions. However, despite these, the opportunities are stupendous and playersare gearing up to enhance their distribution channels and exploring new application areas for citrus essential oil.