It began on the morning of May 19, 1954, at the Hotel Biltmore in New York City. There, at a Chemists' Breakfast meeting held during the Flavor & Extract Manufacturer's Association (FEMA) annual convention, a group of flavor chemists proposed a fresh approach to the problems of pure vanilla. There has been a growing dissatisfaction with the arbitrary and non-specific character of most vanilla analytical values. The proposal, which was accepted by the FEMA Board of Governors, called for a radical change in vanilla research: the establishment to a fund to finance a program of research to be conducted by independent scientific institutions not connected with the industry.
The program would be guided by the Scientific Research Committee of FEMA. It would seek new methods for determining the purity of vanilla products, elucidate the flavor components in vanilla, and help develop standards for vanilla extract and related products. The Vanilla Bean Association soon agreed to assist the program financially and materially. In 1955, FEMA and VBA worked out a mechanism by which an assessment of four cents per pound of vanilla beans was collected to form the research fund. In later years, the Malagasy Republic, the world's largest supplier of vanilla beans, also contributed substantially to the fund.