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Processing Vanilla inside Madagascar

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More than 140 years after Wilhelm Haarmann and Ferdinand Tiemann synthesized vanillin from pine bark, Symrise has unveiled a vanilla extraction facility in Benavony, Madagascar, which combines the company’s ingredient heritage with contemporary technology and sustainability initiatives. The move establishes local vanilla processing for the first time, ensuring that more of the value chain remains within Madagascar.

The €3-million, 3,500-sq-m facility sits on 36 ha of land and features extraction, analysis, quality control and storage capacity. The site includes new percolation columns, storage and condensation tanks, and high-performance liquid chromatography. The facility will recycle the alcohol used in the rectification process. The site will also process locally grown flavor and fragrance materials such as vetiver.

The new production facility is powered in part by a boiler fueled via the burning of sustainably grown and harvested acacia wood and bamboo produced by local residents. (The boiler reportedly meets high air quality standards.) Last year, Symrise’s reforestation program planted 80,000 acacia and 50,000 Intsia bijuga seedlings; this amount will be duplicated this year. “This site is a further milestone in Symrise’s strategy of establishing the entire value chain for vanilla in its source country and in accordance with strict sustainability criteria,” said Heinz- Jürgen Bertram, CEO of Symrise, during the facility’s opening ceremony, which included special guests Jules Étienne Rolland, Madagascar’s minister of economy, and Harald Gehrig, the German ambassador to Madagascar. Bertram added, “With this new plant, we are completing the cycle of responsible vanilla production on-site. Our vanilla activities in Madagascar are the best evidence that business success and sustainability go hand in hand.”

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