Vanillin is one of the world's most popular flavours, used in food and fragrances. Wood vanillin is naturally occurring within trees and is embedded in their structure.
During the biorefinery process, the vanillin within the tree is separated, collected, purified to more than 99.9%, crystalised and packed in 25kg cartons.
Vanillin occurs in plants and is one of nature's protection systems. This protection comes in the form of inherent antimicrobial properties that take effect when the trees or plants are attacked by fungi, yeast, bacteria or insects. As such, vanillin acts as a preservative when used in food, fragrance and cosmetic formulations.
Borregaard has produced wood vanillin since 1962. Today, the company has one of the world's most advanced biorefineries, making several hundred commercial biobased products from trees. Borregaard's wood vanillin creates a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with vanillin synthesised from crude oil. Hence, the climate impact of Borregaard's wood vanillin is much smaller than that of oil-derived vanillin.
Oil-derived vanillin's climate impact is 29 times greater than wood vanillin, irrespective of where it is produced. There is a limited amount of vanilla beans produced globally, and there is an increasing market focus on replacing synthetic ingredients with bio-based, plant-based and sustainable ingredients.
The vanilla orchid originally came from Mexico. Spanish conquistadors brought cocoa and vanilla home to Europe. Blended with sugar, it became a luxury drink in the 17th century. The most important source is Vanilla planifolia, which is grown in subtropical areas. Bourbon Island, Madagascar, Comoros and the Seychelles are the main producing region. Vanilla pods are harvested in unripe condition and are then fermented.
Though there are many compounds present in the extracts of vanilla, the compound vanillin is primarily responsible for the characteristic flavour and smell of vanilla. Another minor component of vanilla essential oil is piperonal. This and other substances affect the odour of natural vanilla.
In addition to being obtained from vanilla, vanillin is manufactured industrially by way of two main processes or routes. One of these processes uses lignin as a raw material - the binding material that makes up approximately 35% of the spruce tree. Borregaard is the only producer of sustainable wood vanillin based on a renewable raw material. The other process uses crude oil, which is converted to vanillin - and ethyl vanillin - with a synthetic process.
By using natural, sustainable raw materials, Borregaard produces advanced and environmentally friendly biochemicals that can replace oil-based products. The company also holds strong positions within ingredients and fine chemicals. It employs 1,100 man-years in plants and sales offices in 16 countries throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.
Health, safety and the environment are integral parts of Borregaard's business processes. The company has to show social responsibility, and actively works with initiatives that can contribute to sound environmental and social development.
In line with its strategy for specialisation and increased value creation, the company invests considerable resources in research and development. This is carried out at research centres in Norway, Spain, South Africa and the US, as well as through extensive collaboration with customers, universities and research institutions in several countries.