Vanilla is, without a doubt, one of the most recognized and appreciated aromas in the food, perfumery and cosmetics sectors. Its use covers products as diverse as soft drinks, designer perfumes or hand creams and shampoos.
This popular classic aroma, far from going out of style, continues to gain strength. The reason is simple: we love it.
A study conducted by Current Biology Journal last year seems to indicate that the smell of vanilla is among the favourites around the world, regardless of the cultural background of the person surveyed.
Vanilla-scented ice cream is also the second favourite ice cream flavour globally, only surpassed by chocolate ice cream. A study carried out in the United States reveals that vanilla ice creams are the best sellers in almost half of the states in the country.
As a curious fact, it is worth mentioning that Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, discovered vanilla ice cream in the 1780s while living in Paris. He liked them so much that he wrote the first known recipe for vanilla ice cream recorded by an American and, upon his return, helped popularize this product in his country.
The enormous success of vanilla presents only one problem: it is the second most expensive spice, after saffron. Its high price is largely due to its complicated cultivation and laborious harvesting.
BRIEF HISTORY OF VANILLA
Vanilla is obtained from the fruits of Vanilla Planifolia. These fruits are found inside a pod, whose diminutive in Spanish gives rise to its name, vanilla.
Native to South and Central America, the Totonac civilization is believed to have cultivated the vanilla orchid in the tropical areas of Mexico and Latin America for more than nine hundred years.
For the Totonacs, the origin of this flower that they considered sacred is explained by the legend of Xanath, a beautiful woman from a wealthy family who had the bad luck to be the object of desire of a capricious god.
Xanath, in love with a poor young man, decided to ignore the god, who furiously punished her by turning her into white flowers with an exquisite aroma: vanilla.
When the Aztecs conquered the Totonac people, they incorporated the use of vanilla into their culture, being the first to use vanilla and cocoa together in their cuisine. They called this mixture xocolatl.
Later, vanilla was so appreciated by the Spanish conquistadors that they brought it to Europe, along with cocoa, as a highly valued spice.
These plants were exported for cultivation to areas with similar climates but, for years, they were unable to bear fruit since, in those areas, there were no suitable insects to pollinate vanilla flowers. As if that were not enough, these flowers open for less than twenty-four hours, dying and falling to the ground if they have not been pollinated in that period of time.
It would be in 1841 when Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave, discovered on the island of Reunion how to pollinate vanilla flowers manually.
To this day, crops of this plant continue to be pollinated for the most part manually and, for a time, the small island where this pollination method was discovered was the largest supplier of vanilla in the world. Currently, almost 80% of the world’s production is grown in Madagascar.
Although it was possible to grow vanilla naturally thanks to this new knowledge, the small amount produced due to the enormous difficulty of growing and drying it led to the search for synthetic alternatives to meet the global demand for this precious spice.
This is where vanillin or vanilla essence would come into play. Synthesized for the first time in 1858 from dry vanilla extracts, it is at least twenty times cheaper than vanilla and today more than 35,000 tons of this product are sold per year.
USES AND BENEFITS OF VANILLA AROMA
Vanilla essence, in addition to being common in the flavouring of all types of foods, is very useful in the pharmaceutical sector when it comes to masking the bitter taste of medications.
It is also used in pharmacy for its multiple health benefits, with different studies that seem to have shown that vanillin has neuroprotective, anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, among others .
In perfumery it began to become popular at the end of the 20th century, being introduced as a significant note in different fragrances.
Its reputation as an aphrodisiac is still valid, so it is common to find this essence starring in seductive fragrances belonging to the gourmand family.
It is also usually found at the bottom of a large number of aromatic compositions, since its molecular composition makes its aroma last for a long time on the skin.
At Destilerías Muñoz Gálvez, S.A. we develop fragrances with vanilla essence for all types of applications, turning its sweet and warm notes into the protagonists of unique aromatic compositions.
Would you like your product to have the properties that only vanilla can provide? Please, contact us without any obligation.