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World Foods: Keeping Spices Fresh for Long-Life Storage

  • 9 min read

The explosion in global travel has led to a significant increase in the popularity of world foods, and as a result, there has been a growing demand for international flavours, particularly those with a spicy kick.  

However, spices are expensive. Even today Saffron is worth more than its weight in gold, but unlike gold, spices degrade over time. This is because spices contain essential oils and compounds that break down when exposed to air, light, heat, and moisture, resulting in a loss of flavour and aroma.

Storing spices in the right container in the right environment is essential when it comes to preserving the quality of these essential ingredients for as long as possible.

Ground and whole spices on a wooden table.

How to Keep Spices Fresher for Longer

Taking a few key steps can ensure spices stay fresher for longer.

Store spices in airtight containers: Oxygen can cause spices to lose their flavour and aroma, so it’s important to store them in airtight containers. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids or plastic buckets with snap-on lids will help keep spices fresh.

Keep spices away from light: Exposure to light can cause spices to lose their colour, so it’s best to store them in a dark place. They should be stored in a drawer or cupboard, or in a pantry that doesn’t get a lot of natural light.

Keep spices away from heat: Heat can cause spices to lose their flavour and aroma, so it’s important to store them in a cool place. Avoid storing spices near the stove or oven, or in a location that gets a lot of direct sunlight.

Avoid moisture: Moisture can cause spices to clump together and lose their flavour, so it’s important to keep them dry. Avoid storing spices in the refrigerator or freezer, as condensation can form when they’re removed from cold storage.

Label containers: To keep track of how long spices have been stored, it’s a good idea to label the containers with the name of the spice and the date it was stored. This will help identify any spices that are past their shelf life and need to be replaced.

Buy spices in small quantities: It’s tempting to buy large quantities of spices to save money, but this can result in wasted spices. Spices lose their flavour over time, so it’s better to buy small quantities and use them up quickly.

Grind your own spices: Whole spices have a longer shelf life than ground spices, so it can make sense to grind spices as needed. This will help to ensure that the spices are as fresh as possible.

Taking these key steps will help your spices keep their freshness for as long as possible so that the tenth curry tastes as good as the first!

What Types of Containers Should be Used to Store Spices?

The best spice storage container will depend on whether it’s for home or industrial use.  

Traditionally spices in the home kitchen were stored in a rack of glass jars. Glass jars are transparent, so the contents are easy to see, and they can be sterilized in the dishwasher. Glass is impermeable, so it protects the contents from outside contaminants.

However, glass does have some drawbacks when it comes to long-term spice storage. Because jars are transparent, they offer no light protection, so bright colours will fade. This is particularly important for spices used for colouring such as saffron, turmeric, and paprika.

“There are two enemies to spices stored in glass jars, one is light and the other is air.”

– Delia Smith

Metal containers, such as tins or canisters, can also be used to store spices, but it’s important to choose containers that are lined with food-grade material to prevent the spices from coming into contact with metal. Otherwise, the metal will contaminate the taste and aroma of delicate spices.

When storing and shipping spices in bulk plastic buckets are the ideal choice for several reasons;

Airtight: Plastic buckets with snap-on lids create an airtight seal that helps to keep spices fresh by preventing air from entering the container. This is important because exposure to air can cause spices to lose their flavour and aroma.

Durable: Plastic buckets are generally more durable than glass or metal containers, which can break or dent if dropped or mishandled. This makes plastic containers a good choice for storing spices that are used frequently or are stored in an area with a lot of activity.

Lightweight: Plastic buckets are lighter in weight than glass or metal containers, making them easier to handle and transport. This is especially important when using large quantities.

Moisture-resistant: Polypropylene plastic is moisture-resistant, which means it helps to protect spices from moisture and humidity that can cause clumping or spoilage.

Cost-effective: Plastic buckets are less expensive than glass or metal containers, making them an affordable option for storing spices. This is especially important if you need to buy multiple containers or are on a tight budget.

When choosing plastic containers for storing spices, it’s important to choose food-grade plastic that is free from BPA and other harmful chemicals. Look for containers that are labelled as “food safe” or “food grade” to ensure that they are safe for storing spices.

How Long Do Jars of Spices and Dried Herbs Last?

The simple answer to the question, “Do spices expire?” is yes, but their shelf life varies according to the type of spice and how it is processed. Seeds and whole spices, including cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for three or four years. Once spices are ground, they lose some of their shelf life, so it’s best to keep them whole and then grind them fresh whenever possible.

Here are some general guidelines for the shelf life of common spices:


Whole spices have a longer shelf life than ground spices because they contain less surface area exposed to air. Whole spices can last between 2 and 5 years, depending on the type of spice and how it’s stored. Some common whole spices and their shelf life are:

Whole nutmeg: 4-5 years
Whole peppercorns: 4-5 years
Whole cinnamon sticks: 3-4 years
Whole cloves: 3-4 years
Whole cumin seeds: 3-4 years


Ground spices generally have a shorter shelf life than whole spices because they have a larger surface area exposed to air, which can cause them to lose their flavour more quickly. Ground spices typically last between 1 and 3 years, depending on the type of spice and how it’s stored. Some common ground spices and their shelf life are:

Ground cinnamon: 1-2 years
Ground cumin: 1-3 years
Ground ginger: 1-3 years
Ground paprika: 1-3 years
Ground nutmeg: 2-3 years 

How Long Do Dried Herbs Last?: Dried herbs have a longer shelf life than fresh herbs but still lose their flavour over time. Dried herbs typically last between 1 and 3 years, depending on the type of herb and how it’s stored. Dried herb storage containers that protect the contents from heat, light, moisture and air will help to prolong the shelf life of herbs as well as spices.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the actual shelf life of herbs and spices can vary depending on a variety of factors. The best way to determine if a spice is still good is to use your senses. If a spice smells musty or off or has lost its colour, it’s probably time to replace it.

What is the best packaging material for spices?

Packaging must protect the spices from moisture, heat, and light, which can all impact the quality of the spices. Plastic buckets are a great option for shipping spices because they are durable, airtight, and can provide additional protection for the spices during transportation.

Some types of plastics may be harmful to human health or the environment. When choosing plastic for food packaging, it’s important to look for products that are made from food-grade, BPA-free plastic to ensure that the packaging is safe for use with food.

Polypropylene (PP) plastic is more durable than other types of plastics, such as polyethylene, which means it can withstand the rigours of shipping and handling better. It’s also less likely to crack or break during transport.

PP plastic is widely recyclable, which means it can be repurposed or reused after use, helping to reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of packaging.

By choosing polypropylene plastic packaging, spice manufacturers and retailers can help to ensure that their products remain fresh and flavourful while minimizing their environmental impact.

Invopak supplies food-safe containers in a variety of styles and sizes including tubs and buckets, which are designed for the food industry. We are also BRC Global Standards certified for food storage and distribution, offering our customers an extra layer of food packaging security, and we offer customised printing services too, (MOQ applies), please get in touch with our team to find out more.

Food Grade Plastic Buckets

Food Grade Plastic Tubs

Food Grade Plastic Jars

Our plastic buckets are ideal for bulk food storage and shipping.

Our plastic tubs are available in a wide range of smaller sizes; ideal for spices, dips and sauces.

Invopak’s plastic screw-top jars are durable, light, and food-safe; a great alternative to glass.

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