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This autumn season at StellarNet, we’re using spectroscopy to analyze the quality of popular autumn spices. These spices capture the essence of autumn with their warm, earthy, and sweet flavors that complement the traditional foods served during the holiday meal. Whether used individually or as part of spice blends, they contribute significantly to the holiday’s signature tastes.


A key spice in many desserts, cinnamon is used in apple pies, sweet potato dishes, and, of course, the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie.

By integrating NIR spectroscopy into the quality control process, cinnamon producers can maintain high-quality standards, which is particularly important during peak demand seasons, such as the holidays when cinnamon is a key ingredient in many dishes. Near-Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is a powerful technique for the quality control of spices like cinnamon, primarily due to its rapid, non-destructive nature and its ability to analyze multiple components simultaneously. 

Here’s how NIR spectroscopy can be utilized in the quality control of cinnamon spice production:

Watch Demo of Spice Adulteration: Cassia vs. Ceylon Cinnamon using ChemWiz-ADK NIR spectrometer

Moisture Content: Moisture levels are crucial for maintaining the quality and shelf life of cinnamon. NIR spectroscopy can quickly measure the moisture content in cinnamon batches, ensuring that the spice is dried to the appropriate level to prevent mold growth and loss of flavor. Our ChemWiz-ADK NIR spectrometer for Industry has onboard chemometrics which can easily allow users to make their own models for moisture detection for any type of sample. No more drying, weighing, and weighting, the ChemWiz-ADK is non-destructive and give results instantaneously.

Detection of Adulteration: Cinnamon is often adulterated with other substances, such as cassia, which is cheaper but has a different flavor profile and contains higher levels of coumarin, which can be harmful in large quantities. NIR can detect differences in the chemical composition that may indicate adulteration.

Spectral-ID feature built into ChemWiz-ADK
Detection of Cassia vs. Ceylon

Review Spectral Data
Ceylon overlay Cassia
No processing;
many pre/post processing is available

ChemWiz-ADK Technician Mode
Clean uncluttered Interface

Cinnamaldehyde Content: The quality of cinnamon is largely determined by its cinnamaldehyde content, which is responsible for its distinctive flavor and aroma. NIR spectroscopy can be used to quantify cinnamaldehyde and other essential oil components, ensuring the spice’s potency.

Particle Size Distribution: For ground cinnamon, particle size can affect the flavor profile and the release of essential oils. NIR can indirectly assess particle size by analyzing the absorbance spectra, as particle size can influence the scattering of NIR light.


Known for its aromatic essence, rosemary is used in various Thanksgiving dishes, including roasted meats and vegetables.

Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is a non-destructive analytical technique that can be effectively used in the quality control of rosemary spice production. It allows for rapid and reliable assessment of various quality parameters in rosemary, helping to ensure the product’s consistency and adherence to quality standards.

Here’s how NIR spectroscopy can be utilized in the quality control of rosemary production:

Essential Oil Content: Rosemary’s aroma and flavor are primarily attributed to its essential oil content. NIR spectroscopy can measure the concentration of essential oils, which is a key quality indicator. High-quality rosemary should have a specific range of essential oil content for the desired flavor and aroma.

Total Polyphenol Content: Rosemary is known for its antioxidant properties, which are often associated with its polyphenol content. NIR spectroscopy can estimate the total polyphenol content in rosemary, providing information about its potential health benefits and antioxidant capacity.

Shelf Life Monitoring: Over time, the quality of rosemary spice can deteriorate due to factors like oxidation and moisture absorption. NIR spectroscopy can monitor these changes in real-time, helping manufacturers establish optimal storage conditions and shelf life estimates.


This warm spice is often used in conjunction with cinnamon and is a key ingredient in pumpkin pie spice. It’s also used in savory dishes like mashed potatoes and butternut squash soup.

Implementing spectroscopy for nutmeg quality control requires the validation of the method and the establishment of a reference database using a variety of nutmeg samples. This ensures accurate and reliable results, aiding in quality assessment and compliance with industry standards.

Here’s how spectroscopy can be applied in this context:

Potency Measurement: NIR can be used to measure the potency of nutmeg by analyzing the content of active compounds. This helps in ensuring that the spice has the desired strength for flavoring purposes.

Grading of Nutmeg: Nutmeg can come in different grades, depending on the processing and origin. NIR spectroscopy can help categorize nutmeg into different quality grades by analyzing its chemical composition.

Contaminant Screening: Nutmeg can be contaminated with aflatoxins produced by fungi, which are a health hazard. NIR spectroscopy can sometimes be set up to screen for such contaminants, although confirmatory tests might be required due to the complex nature of the spice.

Myristicin Content: Myristicin is a key bioactive compound in nutmeg responsible for its distinct flavor and potential health benefits. NIR spectroscopy can be used to estimate the myristicin content, which is an important parameter for quality assessment.


This herb is often used in stuffing and pairs well with poultry, making it a staple for seasoning the Thanksgiving turkey.

Here’s how spectroscopy can be used in the quality control of sage spice production:

Antioxidant Compounds: Sage is known for its antioxidant properties, which are often related to its polyphenol content. NIR spectroscopy can be used to estimate the concentration of antioxidant compounds in sage.


Quantitative Analysis: NIR spectroscopy can provide quantitative data on various chemical components in sage, such as moisture, essential oil content, antioxidant compounds, and other chemical constituents. This data can be used to create quality control models and set tolerances for different quality parameters.

Process Optimization: NIR spectroscopy can be integrated into the production process for real-time monitoring and control. This helps ensure the production process is consistent and optimized for quality and efficiency.

Color and Appearance Assessment: Spectroscopy can evaluate the color and overall appearance of sage spice, which is essential for consumer perception and purchase decisions, as well as for maintaining product consistency.

NIR Spectrometers for Industry

StellarNet offers a  ChemWiz-ADK Analyzer in a handheld or mountable/modular setup for within production environments. Great for quality control at receiving or trading locations and great for technicians and routine daily inspections. Learn more about our application specific products:  ChemWiz-ADK-N for Nutraceutical Analysis | ChemWiz-ADK-C for Cosmetics |ChemWiz-ADK–G for Grains |ChemWiz-ADK-M for Meats | ChemWiz-ADK–DP for Dairy Powders |ChemWiz-ADK-PF for Pet Food | Cannabis AnalysisChemWiz-ADK-PP for Plastics | ChemWiz-ADK-OG for Oil & Gas

Spice Adulteration Issue

Spice adulteration is a significant issue in the food industry because spices are valuable commodities, and there is a temptation to dilute them with cheaper materials to increase profits.

The most commonly adulterated spices include:

Saffron: Adulterated with similar-looking substances like marigold petals, corn silk, or colored threads.
Turmeric: Mixed with metanil yellow dye or chalk powder.
Paprika: Blended with cheaper dyes or colored powders.
Black Pepper: Bulkier with papaya seeds or other similar-looking but cheaper seeds.
Cinnamon: Often substituted with cassia, which is cheaper but contains higher levels of coumarin.
Ground Red Pepper (Chili): Adulterated with brick powder, salt, or husk.
Vanilla Extract: Sometimes diluted with synthetically produced vanillin.
Oregano: Mixed with other leaves like olive or myrtle.
Cardamom: Adulterated with inferior quality pods or dyed pods to mimic the green color.