- Members of the global vanilla industry are partnering with each other and third parties to launch a sustainable vanilla initiative (SVI) that will secure vanilla bean farmers' livelihoods and long-term stability of a high-quality vanilla bean supply, FoodBev Media reported.
- The initiative aims to determine innovative solutions for challenges the vanilla industry has faced recently, including a decline in quality, price volatility and poor product traceability.
- "This voluntary food, flavours and fragrances industries program liaises with vanilla exporters, producers, sector organisations and public authorities worldwide to progress issues of governance, traceability, labor rights and technical assistance to grower groups," according to FoodBev Media.
By its nature, the vanilla and vanilla bean industry has a complex supply chain that is vulnerable to a range of social, environmental and economic issues. In addition to pricing and product quality concerns, vanilla bean producers and their customers are concerned about claims of poverty and child labor, which threaten the industry's viability and can be difficult to trace.
Madagascar, which currently produces more than 80% of global supply, is a first priority for the nearly two dozen participants in the sustainable vanilla initiative. In 2015, the SVI weighed in on the development of a code of conduct for Malagasy vanilla market participants. Madagascar’s prime minister and more than 40 vanilla exporters signed the finalized document. This was a major step forward for setting better industry standards, much like how U.S. regulators hope FSMA standards will revolutionize the safety and traceability of the food supply in their own way.
One critical idea to come out of this initiative has been to incentivize consistently high-quality vanilla bean producers to effect change and better traceability. By improving the livelihoods of small and often impoverished vanilla bean farmers in producing countries, particularly Madagascar, this can in turn motivate these farmers' sustainability efforts. More practically, this can also afford farmers the equipment and labor they might need to produce higher-quality crops at a lower cost.
With higher production standards and farmers' quality of life in place, manufacturers can benefit from being able to better trust in the quality of the vanilla products they buy. They can also have a more dependable supply of potentially lower-cost natural vanilla, which is critical to clean label efforts as more consumers demand manufacturers stop using artificial ingredients, such as the commonly-used synthetic vanilla.