By: Anish Kumar Eswaran -- Research Analyst, Crops and Natural Fibers
08 March, 2017
The perception of the growing population to live a healthy lifestyle is on the rise. In that context, the new structure of labeling called “Clean Label” is taking on the food industry. These labels are made easy to read and highlight any ingredient that is derived from artificial source, making it easy for consumers to make “healthy” purchase of their daily groceries. While striking a balance between health and flavor is where food companies aim to shine at, it is quite difficult due to technical limitations. One of the most commonly used taste enhancer and a classic flavor is Vanillin (Flavor compound of Vanilla) which is used on an extensive list of food categories such as beverages, chocolates and confectioneries. While just 0.5 percent of the vanillin produced is derived from natural vanilla pods, the remaining 99.5 percent of the global vanillin is made from artificial sources such as fossil fuel and lignin. With increase in demand for natural flavors and Vanilla, it is essential to identify an alternative method to manufacture vanilla that can be classified “natural”.
Key Highlights: The demand for vanilla is increasing every year at around 3-5 percent CAGR due to increase in new food products. The global vanilla market is composed of 99.5 percent synthetic vanillin and 0.5 percent natural vanilla (FAOSTAT). The acceptance of synthetic vanilla derived from crude oil and wood pulp is severely under contemplation by consumers due to the possible negative health effects from consuming it. Furthermore, the feedstock of these synthetic vanillin is neither sustainable nor is the natural vanilla bean market improving due to low yield, intense manual labor, long processing time, etc. Fermentation derived vanillin is expected to be the next best thing which could replace synthetic vanillin due to its sustainability and its flexibility to be termed as natural.
Importance of finding a sustainable vanilla alternative:
It is evident that consumers want natural ingredients in their food and are ready to shell out extra cash for it. However, the yield of natural vanillin from vanilla beans is extremely low when compared to other options and the processing time is also longer. Also the cost of natural vanillin is high at around $1500 – $2000 for a kilogram. Considering these parameters, it is quite evident that a natural vanillin substitute is essential. While fermentation-derived vanillin is available, it is early to comment on its market position compared to synthetic or natural vanillin. It is suitable for food manufacturers, it is sustainable, can be labeled natural, reasonably priced and it can effectively replace synthetic vanillin in terms of volume. Considering the current market, it is safe to say that fermentation-derived vanillin has the upper hand in replacing synthetic vanillin. However, its flavor is no match for vanillin derived from vanilla beans.
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