‘Vanilla pearls’ or ‘vanilla caviar’. Our market survey


Master ice cream makers and pastry chefs also pursue perfection through the search for the finest natural ingredients. Vanilla-originating in Mexico and grown mainly in central Africa (Madagascar, Uganda)-is a major player in the confectionery tradition in Europe. And the use of ‘vanillapearls‘ or ‘vanilla caviar‘ is established, presented as the cru of the prized berry, selected and extracted from its pods.

However, our market survey and laboratory analysis reveal that some products are not real ‘vanilla‘ but a ‘vanilla-flavored flavor preparation.’ That is, an ingredient composed of multiple ingredients, sometimes not even declared on the label. Professional users are therefore exposed to the risk of unknowingly providing incorrect information to their consumers and patrons.

Vanilla. Flavoring ingredient, flavor or preparation

Vanilla is used in the production of ice cream, yogurt and desserts, but also in soft drinks (even in Coca-Cola). Depending on the preparations and requirements of recipe or food technology, it is used in the following different forms:

(a) ingredient ‘vanilla’

– As such, as a raw food (pods and berries),
– powder (100% vanilla powder),

(b) vanilla flavor

– in liquid or powder, vanilla flavor can be defined as ‘natural vanilla flavor‘ only when at least 95 percent is derived from vanilla, (1)

(c) flavoring preparation

– Pastes, concentrates, and extracts, on the other hand, qualify as flavoring preparations. (2) Since they are compound ingredients, their content must be specified on the label or on the ingredient register of products where they are used. (3)

‘Vanillapearls‘ or ‘vanilla caviar‘. Our market survey

Artisan pastry and ice cream shops , pastry chefs and star chefs have also begun to appreciate ‘vanilla pearls,’ or ‘vanilla caviar,’ in recent years. Words relevant to their prices, since vanilla-after saffron-is the second most expensive spice in the world.

The market survey performed by GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade) begins with an analysis of Eurovanille’s flagship product. French group with more than 6,000 customers in more than 80 countries, market leader in Italy.

1) Eurovanille, ‘Bourbon vanilla pearls

Eurovanille’s Bourbon vanilla beads-origin Madagascar pods‘ have a significant dissimilarity between the product offered and that sold. Of such seriousness, unfortunately, as to amount to trade fraud. Indeed:

– the company website refers to a matrix ‘composed entirely of Bourbon vanilla beans, finely sifted, and then combined with our natural vanilla concentrate to make a thick paste.’

the Italian catalog states ‘100% vanilla,’ specifying that 1 gram of the product is equal to 1 pod of the finest variety of vanilla, the Bourbon precisely,

the ingredient list, on the label, states ‘blend of vanilla seeds obtained by extraction and natural Bourbon vanilla seeds (62.5 percent), Bourbon vanilla concentrate (37.5 percent).’

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– In contrast, laboratory analysis performed on our instructions by accredited laboratory reveals the presence of molasses (8.8 g/100g), glucose (4.6 g), fructose (2.8 g), sucrose (1.4 g) and residual ethanol (0.0065 g), hopefully food grade.

2) Vanille Lavany de Madagascar, ‘caviar – vanilla pearls

The ‘caviar – vanilla pearls, Madagascar Bourbon’ of Vanille Lavany de Madagascar-another French spice trader-is presented as follows on the site web corporate: ‘caviar – pearl is the result of a blend of our non-exhausted Lavany vanilla beans and concentrated Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla – oleoresin‘.

The ingredient list remains unknown both on the data sheet and the Vanille Lavany de Madagascar website and on Amazon. Where the 200 g jar of ‘caviar-pearl’ is thus sold outlawed at the modest sum of €184.50 (€922.5/kg). (4) The product, at the very least, is designated as ‘flavoring preparation based on bourbon vanilla from Madagascar‘ (5)

3) Scents of Madagascar, ‘vanilla caviar

Perfumes of Madagascar is an Italian company dedicated to the trade of vanilla, spices and handicraft products coming from the African island. His ‘vanilla caviar‘ is presented as ‘a specialty made by extracting the pulp found inside the vanilla bean.’

The ‘vanilla caviar produced by Gasy sata compagnie for Fragrances of Madagascar, however, refers in the ingredient list to ‘unexhausted vanilla seeds‘ (80 percent) and ‘extract‘ (20 percent). It is therefore once again a flavoring preparation in disguise. Although, presumably, made by traditional methods. (6)

4) F.lli Rebecchi, ‘natural aroma Bourbon Vanilla Madagascar

F.lli Rebecchi Valtrebbia S.p.A. -in addition to marketing Vanilla Bourbon Madagascar in berries and powder form-has a reference in its catalog that contains both vanilla seeds and its concentrate. However, the product in question is correctly presented as ‘Natural Vanilla Bourbon Madagascar Flavor‘, without suggesting any juxtaposition with ‘pearls’ or ‘caviar’. (7) A pearl of honesty in a market dominated by malfeasance and deception.

Flavoring preparations vs. seeds and pods

The self-styled ‘van illa pearls ‘ or ‘vanilla caviar‘ of Eurovanille, Vanille Lavany de Madagascar, and Perfumes of Madagascar-despite their advertising promises-are therefore made from vanilla seeds (often exhausted and odorless, but distinctive in appearance) and the concentrates or extracts. Which are used to give the flavoring preparation the desired fragrance and texture. (8)

Concentrates and extracts are made by sugar or glucose syrup, as appropriate. That is, water and fructose, or vegetable glycerin, or hydroalcoholic solution. Vanilla immersed in these solutions thus releases its aromatic components, by osmosis often encouraged by heat treatment, into the concentrate or extract. Both of which clearly cannot in any way be equated with seeds or pods.

Tips for artisans, chefs and confectionery businesses

Appearances are deceiving , and regulators have yet to devote the necessary investigations to this area to root out fraud. While waiting for this to happen, artisan businesses-pastry stores, ice cream parlors, catering establishments-and confectionery industries that use these products:

– Have the full right to demand data sheets of vanilla-derived products from their suppliers, (8)

– must include the words ‘flavoring preparation‘ on the label and/or sale signs of pastry and ice cream products, followed in parentheses by its specific ingredients.

The designation ‘vanilla ‘-and thus, ‘vanillacake,’ ‘vanilla ice cream‘-can only be used when the ingredient has been made exclusively, 100 percent, from the precious berries and/or its pods. In all other cases it may instead refer only to ‘the taste of’ or ‘the aroma of‘.

Dario Dongo


(1) Natural flavorings, lawyer Dario Dongo replies. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 10/16/18, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/aromi-naturali-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(2) Flavoring preparations in turn can be qualified as ‘traditional‘ under the conditions set out in Annex II to Reg. EC 1334/08 on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods. Consolidated text as of 12/31/20 at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02008R1334-20201203&qid=1619076336370

(3) Dario Dongo. Compound ingredients and QUID on labels, widespread deceptions. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 1.6.19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/ingredienti-composti-e-quid-in-etichetta-inganni-diffusi

(4) Dario Dongo. Ecommerce, what responsibilities. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 2/24/18, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/ecommerce-quali-responsabilità

(5) Vanille Lavany de Madagascar then presents its ‘Bourbon Vanilla Extract‘ as produced ‘exclusively from Bourbon Vanilla beans from Madagascar.’ Except that then, in the pole position of the ingredient list, inverted sugar syrup came first and caramel came third

(6) Fragrances of Madagascar also markets a vanilla extract where it states, in the ingredient list, vanilla berries (40%), cane sugar syrup (30%), vanilla seeds 30%. For an improbable total of 110%. V. https://profumidelmadagascar.it/shop/spezie/vaniglia/vaniglia-bourbon-estratto/

(7) Rebecchi Valtrebbia S.p.A. Products in the catalog, at http://rebecchi.com/index.php/vaniglia-bacche, http://rebecchi.com/index.php/vaniglia-polvere and http://rebecchi.com/index.php/vaniglia-liquida

(8) Reg. EU 1169/2011, Article 8.8

(9) Allergens, B2B information, lawyer Dario Dongo replies. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 11/13/17, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/allergeni-informazione-b2b-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.