The firm showcased its Vanifolia and Vanilfolia Bean ranges at Food Ingredients Europe (FIE) in Paris this week.
The launch comes soon after Nestlé USA pledged to remove all artificial colors and flavors in confectionery. Hershey also announced this year it would remove artificial vanillin in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate and Kisses as it transitions to simple, easy-to-understand ingredients.
The natural shift
Jean-Pierre Cuif, global flavor business manager at Solvay Aroma Performance, told ConfectioneryNews: "In confectionery we are seeing a big trend towards natural flavors. Traditionally in chocolate synthetic vanilla is used - which is a big market for us already and will remain a big market... - but there's a need for new natural flavors for chocolate."
Solvay already supplies artificial vanilla, but was asked by its customers to find a natural solution.
"It's not easy to find on the market because it's a new demand,” said Cuif.
From natural sources & non-GMO
Vanifolia is a natural flavor derived mainly from rice using biomass technology, which is conventionally used in the pharmaceutical industry. The ingredient can be declared as ‘natural flavor’ on ingredients lists.
Solvay’s Vanifolia Bean range comes from genuine vanilla orchid beans and can be declared as ‘natural vanilla flavor’. Unlike for Vanifolia, Vanidolia Bean users can place vanilla imagery on packaging.
Cuif said both ranges were considered natural in the US and under EU directive 1344/2008.
"Natural vanillin should first be available in nature. So the natural vanilla molecule we make is the exact same molecule as we find in nature when we extract from vanilla beans..”
"The second criteria is that the process has to be natural...We use bioconversion instead of a chemical process. It's not very common for flavors - bioconversion is used for making pharmaceutical products,” said Cuif.
A price worth paying?
The Solvay business manager said chocolate makers had previously been put off by the added cost of natural vanillin, but were now keen to cater to consumer needs.
He added that cocoa mass is the costliest ingredient for most chocolate formulations, while flavors account for only a small proportion.
"Of course for buyers you need to be competitive, but they can afford to follow consumer needs to maintain their differentiation against their competitors. They can afford the premium of natural versus synthetic."
Will the taste change?
But can recognized brands preserve their characteristic taste when switching from natural to synthetic?
"It's a big challenge,” said Cuif. “Maybe the replacement will not be by just one flavor, but maybe two or three. The natural trend is so strong that you need to find a solution....The customer will only replace if the taste is the same."
Solvay has a team of flavorists to assist chocolate makers to find a custom-made flavor that can match the taste of existing products using artificial vanilla.
Cuif said demand for Vanifolia would mainly come from developed Western markets, but added: "We see some little spots sparkling in Asia. For instance, in Australia, you have demand for natural that is not so well known.”