Tannins are present in many plants and trees and known for their antioxidant properties. Tannins are polymers consisting mainly of glycosides, belonging to the polyphenol family, which are water soluble and are able to precipitate proteins.
These characteristics are essential for a broad range of applications discovered over the centuries. Without a doubt, the oldest and most important one is related to tanning hides for manufacturing leather suitable for garments, furnishings, leather goods, automotive upholstery, leather soles and shoe uppers.
An antique practice that has been around since the 1300’s became an art in itself. This practice was developed in different areas of the Mediterranean including Italy and was able to develop with the technological evolution from the industrial revolution to present times. Vegetable tanning, using vegetable extracts obtained from chestnut, quebracho, Tara, gallnuts and mimosa is at the centre of the rediscovery by consumers. Consumers are focusing more on natural and ecological products and their production processes.
Today tannins play an important role as a natural ingredient for a large number of industrial applications. Several studies have been carried out on vegetable tanned leathers: consumers have returned to natural products and have reduced their use of products with chemical origins.
In addition to the tanning industry, tannins can also be efficiently used in the oenological sector as clarifying agents for the production of wine and beer. Tannins are also used in cosmetics and the pharmaceutical industry for their antioxidant and anticancer properties, in the textile industry as efficient natural dyes and in animal nutrition to integrate naturally into animal diets.