Sustainable vanilla from India reaches Danisco stocks

Related tags Vanilla Danisco

Diversifying supplies and managing risk for the world's most
expensive, and popular, natural flavour, for the first time
ingredients giant Danisco receives a batch of sustainable organic
vanilla from an Indian monk, reports Lindsey Partos.

The 1.2 ton batch arriving at the firm's US flavour plant hails from a small 75m2 non-profit organisation in Bangalore, India.

The move by Danisco serves several purposes: spreading sources of vanilla can help to guarantee supplies and reduce risk; the 'sustainable' project ensures local farmers and workers receive all the earnings from the sales; and food firms can meet growing consumer demand for organic ingredients.

During the last decade, vanilla prices have soared from about $20 a kilo to record prices of up to $300 during 2003's vanilla scarcity. A devastating cyclone in 2000 and the 2002 political crisis in Madagascar, the world's biggest grower supplying 50 per cent of the world market, heavily influenced this boom in vanilla prices.

Last year prices fell on the back of a bumper vanilla bean harvest in Madagascar, that trebled production from 500 metric tons in 2003 to around 1500 MT in 2004.

But the food industry remains wary, anxious to ensure that supplies can be sustained within reasonable price brackets, and encouraging, be they small, new initiatives to harvest vanilla away from Madagascar.

"This is a tiny percentage of our vanilla production,"​ says Soren Vogelsang, vice president of sustainable development at Danisco, but next year we are sure to purchase more."

Vogelsang claims this sustainable flavour can lead to competitive gains.

Our customers might select the product because we can ensure strong traceability and a sustainability chain, crucial in these highly sensitive times, and where food firms must avoid scandals, he tells​.

Not considered as a premium product, the price will remain on a level with the market: "food firms are unwilling to absorb any price rise,"​ because the consumer will not take up the premium, says Vogelsang.

According to Danisco, Jai Chaitanya Dasa, a Hare Krishna monk from a temple in Bangalore, India, is responsible for setting up a non-profit organisation that promotes organic and sustainable growing methods among local farmers, as well as managing the collection, initial processing and sale of vanilla pods.

Local farmers involved in the vanilla project receive 80 per cent of the earnings generated from the sale, and the remaining 20 per cent slice goes to the workers who process, sort and dispatch the vanilla.

"Danisco has audited the vanilla supply chain to ensure that the entire process from the growing of vanilla pods over processing to transportation follows sustainability principles,"​ says the Danish firm.

Child labour is a particularly volatile subject, and food firms along the chain must not be tarnished by any remote links.

"We go back along the supply chain and see if we can influence sustainability, equal opportunities, environmental and social issues,"​ adds the vice president.

Danisco is currently looking at a range of other raw materials that could meet the same criteria, from castor oil in the North Western part of India, to oranges in Brazil.

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