A sustainable production route
Natural vanilla is a complex blend of compounds, obtained from the seed pods of the vanilla orchid. Within this blend the most important component is vanillin. Because of the cost and scarcity of the natural product, synthetic vanillin is widely used for massmarket products. Vanilla and vanillin are together among the most important fragrance and flavouring products in the world, with the total market worth approximately USD 600 million (and a total volume of approx. 18,000 tonnes). Only a small fraction of this volume consists of natural vanilla, with the vast majority being synthetic vanillin.
The most important applications are in confectionery and dairy products. Vanillin is also used in the fragrance industry, for example in perfumes and cleaning products, as well as to mask unpleasant tastes in medicines, and in livestock fodder.
Evolva has constructed a yeast-based fermentation route to both vanillin and other vanilla flavour components. This allows a natural vanilla product with a superior taste, greater naturalness, competitive pricing and supply chain properties for use in a wide variety of food and other products. The project is partnered with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF).
Recent EU regulatory changes have strengthened the competitive advantage of the proposed product. New EU rules state that only substances or preparations derived directly from an animal or vegetable material may be labelled “natural”. Several products that were previously sold as “natural” can no longer use that label.
In March 2010 Evolva announced it was participating in a four year initiative supported by FØSU (the Danish Council for Strategic Research) to establish a commercially viable and environmentally acceptable production of vanillin by fermentation. Evolva is collaborating with research groups from the University of Copenhagen and the Danish Technical University in this work.
Biosynthetic pathways have been successfully constructed and Evolva owns a number of pending and granted patent applications relating to the approach.
On 5 February 2013, Evolva and IFF announced entering the preproduction phase – the last stage of testing ahead of large-scale production. This phase was successfully completed in early 2014.
IFF stated in February 2014 that the next step is to present the material to flavourists and application teams worldwide. IFF expects first revenues in the second half of 2014. In the meantime, Evolva is continuing to research ways to further improve the production process with the aim of lowering the cost of goods and expanding the market potential.