What's on show
Is our ice cream natural or synthetic?
The 2005 Export-Import Bank of India (exim bank) study on vanilla and its potential in India says that labelling laws for ice cream can create a viable domestic market for the essence in the country. Vanilla flavoured ice cream accounts for over 40 per cent of the sales in the country and this industry is one of the key users of this product. But currently, almost all the vanilla we eat is artificial, not natural.
According to the exim bank study, artificial vanilla flavoured ice cream accounts for 35 per cent of all ice cream sales in the organised ice cream sector. This sector was valued at about Rs 500 crore in 2005; it is estimated to grow 15-20 per cent annually. The study also reckoned that 200 tonnes of artificial vanillin was consumed by the food and beverage sector in 2005 with the ice cream industry alone consuming about 130 tonnes.This consumption is expected to increase to 300 tonnes by 2007.
In India, ice cream makers include big names like Hindustan Lever, which sells the Kwality Walls brand, Amul, Vadilal and Mother Dairy. There are, in fact, a few international brands in the fray as well. The exim bank study estimates that even if, "A mere 11 per cent of the present synthetic vanillin used in ice cream industry is converted to natural vanillin use, the demand for about 15 tonnes of natural vanillin would be created. This would mean a demand for 750 tonnes of cured vanilla beans, almost eight times the current production of the country.'
Currently, in India, only Amul has launched its all natural flavour called Vanilla Royale. It is buying small quantities of extract from Vanilco. Mother Dairy, the ice cream brand of the National Dairy Development, is conducting pilot trials of its new all-natural ice cream. The company told Down To Earth that it expects a commercial launch in 2-3 months.
Observers say that commercial use of natural vanilla will require either mandatory use of vanilla in the ice cream, or at the very least labelling of the product so that consumers know what they are buying.
In all countries, the price of synthetic vanillin is much cheaper than its natural original. But a lot of countries have introduced measures to promote the use of the natural product in high-quality food.
US: flavours are mandated
In the us, fda has mandated that any confectionery that describes itself as "vanilla ice cream,' must be flavoured with natural vanilla extracts. For an ice cream to be called "vanilla flavoured ice cream,' a mix of artificial and natural essence has to be used. However, the natural ingredient has to be higher than the artificial substance. Ice creams in which synthetic vanillin dominates the natural variety