Vanilla flavor : Natural or not ?

Food flavors regulatory aspects : Vanilla case

We often believe, when reading “Natural Flavor” on a pack, that this aroma is directly processed from the natural raw material known for this flavor. But it can be, in fact,  an aroma obtained through fermentation or another bioprocessing method. In the case of Vanilla, it’s mandatory to read “Natural Vanilla Flavor” to be certain that this aroma is obtained from vanilla pods.

For a vanilla flavored product (Yoghurt, Cookie, Ice cream) the labelling only mention “Natural Flavor” this indicates that the flavor is natural but obtained from another source than vanilla. For instance, ferulic acid from rice bran is fermented by microorganisms for vanillin production. These kinds of flavors can be labelled “Natural Flavor” or “Vanilla Flavor” but never “Natural Vanilla Flavor”.

Finally, a label indicating “Vanilla Flavor” can also describe an artificial flavor like synthetic vanillin obtained through chemical processing.  These artificial flavors could mention “Natural identical” if the molecule is the same than the natural one.

At the end of the day, only a label “Natural Vanilla Flavor” can make sure that the flavor comes effectively from Vanilla pods.

A very good summary of food flavors regulatory aspects is available on European Community websites and in National Application texts. Personally, I recommend one, in French, were a very clear summary can be obtained 

“ Évolutions réglementaires en matière d’arômes Catherine MAINGUET, DGCCRF, bureau « Sécurité et réseaux d’alerte

Rice Bran fermentation for Vanillin production