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On Location: Vanilla 2007, Day One

Posted: December 12, 2007

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Defining “Natural” Vanilla

Perhaps the most controversial presentation of the first day was given by Edward Limowski of the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB is a branch of the US government, which regulates the use of alcohol in both alcoholic beverages and other non-beverage applications, including flavorings. Limowski spoke on proposed rule changes by the TTB and their potential impact on the vanilla industry. Limowski explained that the US Food and Drug Administration recently recognized Rhovanil (Rhodia) as vanillin derived from a natural process. The TTB is proposing several new categories of vanilla flavoring, which would all be recognized as natural, notably “Natural Vanilla Flavor Type,” which would not require any of the flavor to be derived from the named source, vanilla beans. Several attendees questioned not only the logic of the proposed changes, but also whether TTB has the authority to essentially rewrite the Federal Standard of Identity for vanilla.

Vanilla in Mexico

Juan Hernandez of the Mexico National Institute for Forests, Agriculture and Livestock explained that the collapse of the 2007 Mexican vanilla crop was caused by the lethal combination of Hurricane Dean and immature bean drop caused by a fungus believed to thrive in unusually hot, dry weather. As a result, Hernandez estimated that the total 2007 Mexican vanilla crop was reduced by 50% to 15–20 metric tons. Meanwhile, Juan Botello of the University Popular Autonomous in Puebla Mexico introduced the newly formed Mexican Vanilla Institute (IMEVA), which has a number of novel initiatives intended to promote vanilla in general, and vanilla from Mexico in particular. One aim is to create brand awareness and quality differentiation by identifying vanilla from the region as vainilla de Papantla.

Production and Pricing Forecasting