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When it comes to natural vanilla, consistency is king. While vanilla beans are sourced from all over the world, production centers in Madagascar, which yields up to 70% of the world’s supply. This heavily centralized production means that localized problems set off global crunches in pricing and availability, heavily impacting the demands on flavor chemists everywhere.
In recent years, typhoons have wrought havoc on Malagasy vanilla crops, causing some customer segments—including dairy, beverage and baked goods—to reformulate with natural flavors in lieu of pure extracts in an attempt to manage costs.
“That’s now in the past,” says Roy Johnston, Givaudan’s flavor ingredient business manager. Johnston should know. Givaudan is heavily committed to vanilla, producing various extracts and flavors at its East Hannover, NJ, site, which supplies the company’s global network. “We’ve had two straight years with no storm problems and excellent production,” Johnston continues. “So [the industry is] in a situation where supply and demand for beans is out of balance. Actually, for the industry, that’s a good thing. If you’re a vanilla bean grower it’s not so good, because [they’re] hoping to make a profit. That has implications for the future.”