What is Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient:

Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract

What it is:

If you’ve ever baked cookies or a cake, you’ve probably used Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract (aka vanilla extract). It’s an incredibly common household staple with a very interesting history and manufacturing process. Vanilla planifolia is a tropical orchid, which is native to Mexico, and was originally cultivated by the Totonac people during Pre-Columbian times (1). These amazing flowers open only one day each year, and there is only one natural pollinator, a species of Melipone bee that’s only found in the region it was originally grown (1). The fruit of the vanilla planifolia looks like long green beans, known as pods, and vanilla extract comes from the cured pods (1). Today, vanilla extract is made using a very time consuming and labor intensive process, involving hand pollination since it can only naturally thrive in one small region (1). Plus, it takes months to mature and cure the seedpods (1).

What it does:

Vanilla extract is not only the world’s most popular flavoring material, it’s also in 50% of aromatic compounds and is the most widely used fragrance in perfumes (2,3).

Why we use it:

It’s simple. We aim to please, so clearly we wanted to use one of the planet’s most beloved naturally-derived scents in some of our products. And, while many opt for artificial vanilla because of its lower cost, we chose the real deal – pure Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract.

References:

  1. Vanilla. (n.d.). Retrieved December 27, 2015, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Vanilla
  2. Sinha, A. K., Sharma, U. K., & Sharma, N. (2008). A comprehensive review on vanilla flavor: extraction, isolation and quantification of vanillin and others constituents. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 59(4), 299-326.
  3. Jean Gabriel Fouch´e, Laurent Jouve. Vanilla planifolia: history, botany and culture in Reunion island. Agronomie, EDP Sciences, 1999, 19 (8), pp.689-703.