Faced with the extensive variety of vanilla products, numerous inquiries arise about the aroma, particularly concerning synthetic vanillin and artificial vanilla, utilized in these products. Vanilla extract is widely employed in commercially available vanilla-flavored food items. However, the scarcity and cost of vanilla have prompted the development of artificial vanilla flavor or synthetic vanillin. The term “vanillin” is often perplexing as it is both the main flavor compound in vanilla and the name given to the aroma made from synthetic or artificial vanilla. Some definitions are necessary to better distinguish vanilla extract.
What is Vanilla Extract?
Vanilla extract is an aromatic product obtained through maceration and percolation of vanilla pods in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water. Vanilla extract without alcohol is also available, with the flavor extracted from a glycerin or propylene glycol solution. Vanillin is the primary aromatic component of vanilla extract. It’s essential to note that vanillin is just one of the aromatic compounds in vanilla extract since vanilla consists of around a hundred aromatic substances. It’s this aromatic complexity that gives natural vanilla its unique taste. Typically, high-quality vanilla extract requires 35% alcohol, but some manufacturers may use a higher percentage for a more potent vanilla flavor.
What are the differences between natural and artificial vanilla flavors?
There is a common misconception of all vanilla flavors being natural. It is crucial to differentiate between vanilla extract and artificial vanilla flavor, also known as “vanillin.” Both products develop an intense vanilla aroma, but they differ in origin and composition. Vanilla extract is composed of various components, including a significant amount of vanillin, vanillic acid, and other aromatic elements, providing it with an unmatched taste. This is referred to as natural vanilla flavor. Artificial vanilla flavor contains only vanillin. Various synthetic forms of vanilla flavor exist, including “natural identical” and “artificial.” However, for consumers, there are essentially two vanilla flavors: natural vanilla extract and artificial vanilla flavor (vanillin).
What is Synthetic Vanillin?
Synthetic vanillin is the chemically synthesized version of the main flavor compound in vanilla pods. It is the commercial name for artificially produced vanilla flavor. While natural vanilla extract contains a spectrum of aromatic compounds, synthetic vanillin focuses solely on reproducing the taste of natural vanilla through chemical means.
What is Vanillin?
Vanillin is one of the aromatic substances in vanilla pods, constituting approximately 90% of the aromatic components of vanilla, while the remaining 10% contributes to the taste of natural vanilla. Vanillin is also the name of the vanilla flavor synthesized chemically in a laboratory, imitating the taste of natural vanilla. The aromatic complexity of natural vanilla sets apart products obtained from vanilla pods. While vanilla extract comprises various aromas, including vanillin, vanilla flavor contains only synthetic vanillin, mimicking the taste of natural vanilla closely.
What are the different forms of vanillin?
For consumers, the choice lies between vanilla extract and vanilla flavor. Vanilla extract is pure and natural, while vanilla flavor is a chemical product based on vanillin. The three forms of vanilla flavor are natural, natural identical, and artificial. A flavor is considered “natural” when derived from plant or animal raw materials. Vanillin extracted from vanilla pods is a natural flavoring substance. A natural identical flavor is an exact reproduction of the chemical structure and taste of a natural flavor. Synthetic vanillin (C8H8O3) is classified as a natural identical flavor. An artificial flavor or “artificial flavoring substance” is the result of chemical modification of flavor molecules to enhance and improve the taste, such as ethylvanillin (C9H10O3), a synthetic flavor with a three to four times higher aromatic power than natural or identical natural vanillin.
Why is Synthetic Vanillin Popular?
Synthetic vanillin is the main flavoring component of artificial vanilla flavor and has contributed to the popularity of vanilla extract. Vanilla has always been a highly popular flavor. Before the discovery of synthetic vanillin, the food industry primarily used vanilla extract in its products. The use of natural vanillin is reserved for a few manufacturers, especially those loyal to traditional recipes, fine gastronomy, and culinary arts. Most vanilla-flavored food items now contain synthetic vanillin. The price and availability have made artificial vanilla flavor popular, considering the high cost and variability of natural vanilla due to agricultural production fluctuations.
Comparison Between Synthetic and Natural Vanillin
Vanilla pods are the best source to extract maximum vanilla aroma. However, given the current price of vanilla pods, vanilla flavor is the best solution for consumers who do not use vanilla regularly. Generally, a teaspoon of vanilla extract is sufficient for 1 liter of liquid or 1 kilogram of dough. In equal quantities, synthetic vanillin has a more intense fragrance than vanilla extract. Nevertheless, natural vanillin is unparalleled in taste. Therefore, only 2-3 drops of artificial vanilla flavor are needed for 1 liter of liquid or 1 kilogram of dough.