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Chocolate makers use naturally produced vanillin to replace synthetic products 

Today is National Chocolate Day in the US, and at Solvay, a global company headquartered in Belgium (the chocolate capital of the world!), we are celebrating the naturally produced vanillin products that give this cacao treat its delicious distinct taste. 

All types of chocolate need vanillin to balance the more bitter taste of cacao, but pure vanilla extract, made directly from vanilla beans, is scarce. It is almost entirely produced in Madagascar, is labor-intensive, and has relatively small-scale production, meeting only 1% of global demand. That’s why, historically, chocolate producers generally use industrially-produced vanillin in place of the vanilla bean extract (the vanillin is the main flavoring substance present on the vanilla bean). 

But now chocolate makers and consumers are increasingly calling for natural ingredients. Answering this demand, Solvay offers Rhovanil® Natural CW, which is produced through bio-fermentation of the ferulic acid extracted from rice bran. The raw material – rice – is widely available and allergen-free. 

Importantly this manufacturing process is recognized by EU authorities as “traditional” – fermentation – which is what makes Rhovanil® Natural CW a natural ingredient according to EU legislation. 

Specifically for the US market, Solvay also offers Rhovanil® US NAT, as a natural alternative, which is produced using natural guaiacol.

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The advantages of natural vanillin for manufacturers?  

One of the greatest advantages for manufacturers is that Rhovanil® Natural CW and Rhovanil® US NAT are  identical on a molecular level to the synthetic vanillin typically used. This allows a simple switch from synthetic vanillin without requiring any reformulation. Because the molecules are strictly identical, they also offer the same physical and chemical properties, as well as the same organoleptic profile: rich and creamy taste.

Switching to Rhovanil® Natural CW also allows manufacturers to use “clean labeling”. Products containing it can have such labels as “natural flavour” in Europe or  “natural vanillin”/“natural flavor” in the US. As consumers increasingly look to buy more natural and healthier food products, manufacturers can provide this transparent and reassuring information.


Solvay - a major player in the vanillin story 

Solvay has been a leader in the vanillin market since 1884. In fact, the company’s ancestor Rhône Poulenc was the first to successfully synthesize an artificial equivalent to the precious molecule in an industrial scale, in the late 19th century, in France.

Our flagship product Rhovanil® was created in the 1970s, and is produced in three units: at the historic plant in Lyon, France, as well as in Louisiana, USA and at a recently developed facility in China. Rhovanil® is used by all the major chocolate manufacturers worldwide as it offers the highest purity on the market, combined with the advantage of stable production and pricing as it’s derived from guaiacol, and therefore isn’t dependent on agricultural and climatic conditions.

Building on this success, Solvay created its natural brands, Rhovanil® Natural CW and Rhovanil® US NAT, which are the latest and most exciting developments within the Rhovanil® brand.

It’s not just chocolate 

Though all chocolate requires vanillin, it only represents 11% of the global vanillin market. Vanillin can be found in so many sweet treats from ice cream to cookies; from cakes to pastries. It’s also a key ingredient in fragrances in products ranging from candles to face creams to perfumes. 

As all these industries look to move towards natural vanillin, the world's demand will continue to grow. That’s why Solvay has doubled its EU natural vanillin production in manufacturing plants in Europe. This is complemented by our Vanil’Expert Centers, multidisciplinary facilities that advise customers in adapting to market specificities.

As Andre Romanzini Marketing Manager for North America put it, “We’re excited to see how this trend develops. We’re focusing on expanding our production so we can better help all our customers affordably meet their natural vanillin needs.”