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Is vanilla a natural compound and where does it come from?

Vanilla originates from South- and Central America. It was introduced by the Spanish in Europe. At present the main producing countries are in Africa and Asia, especially Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion.

Natural vanilla is derived from the vanilla-plant (Vanilla planifoilia ), a variety of the orchid family. Vanilla is mainly present in the seeds of the plant. Seeds are generally fermented (ripened) to release vanilline, the main compound in vanilla. During ripening the seeds get the characteristic black colour.

The world production of vanilla is too small to fulfil the demand. Thus, Vanilline is also produced chemically, which is much cheaper than pure natural vanilla. The taste of vanilline differs from that of vanilla, as the latter also contains many other compounds. For most food applications, however, vanilline is a suitable alternative.

Synthetic vanilline is chemically identical to natural vanilline, and can thus be classified as a semi-natural or nature-identical aroma.





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