Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Vanillin is the primary taste accounting to the flavour of vanilla out of the 200 other flavour compounds in it. Besides the taste vanillin also provides a strong sweet fragrance providing an appetite by exciting the olfactory nerves for the food containing vanillin.
Vanillin due its luscious nature has wide range of applications:
- Flavour enhancer in various foods
like Cakes, cookies, chocolates, candies,
biscuits, breads, ice cream, dairy, beverages, carbonated drinks etc.
- Used for masking the bitter taste and smell in pharmaceutical supplements
- Used for fragrance in perfumes
- Used to enhance flavour in agricultural/animal feed
- Widely used in Indian sweets
- Used for fragrance in soaps and detergents
But with such great applications comes great demand for the product. Globally the demand for vanillin has skyrocketed with more than 20,000 metric tons per year.
The main issue is extracting vanillin from vanilla beans is pricey as the production of vanilla beans is a very tedious and labour-intensive task. Vanilla beans belong to the family of orchids and are cultivated in places like Mexico, Madagascar and Tahiti with Madagascar accounting to 75% of the worlds natural vanilla. The manual pollination of vanilla plant is required to give a larger and proper output of vanilla beans. These vanilla beans contains only 2% vanillin by weight. This made pure and natural vanilla second most expensive spice in the world after saffron.
In the late 19 century scientist started extracting vanilla and later the vanillin from cheaper sources like wood pulp and clove oil. Other sources for extracting vanilla can be petrochemicals, lignin, by-products of paper industry, castoreum etc.
The extraction of vanillin from other sources apart from vanilla beans still didn’t suffice the ever increasing demand of the sweet liquid and increasing cost. This lead to the production of synthetic vanillin. Synthetic vanillin is almost 20 times cheaper than the pure and natural vanillin meeting the demands of the global market. Synthetic vanillin is extensively produced in places like China, France, United states and Norway. China alone produces 75% of global synthetic vanillin.
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