Vanillin giant Rhodia has switched to using food-grade bio-ethanol as a solvent for manufacturing vanillin and ethyl vanillin in a bid to boost its sustainability credentials and further differentiate itself from Chinese competitors.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA.com at the IFT show last week, Vincent Lajotte, aroma ingredients business director, said Chinese rivals, which accounted for almost half of global vanillin supply, used the ortho nitro chloro benzene (ONCB) process, which had raised safety and environmental concerns.
This can sometimes leave chlorinated impurities in the ﬁnal product, despite puriﬁcation steps.
Rhodia, by contrast, uses a catechol route to obtain guaiacol, a key intermediate for vanillin production, at its plants in the US (Baton-Rouge, LA), and in France (Saint-Fons, Lyon) and has now switched to using only food-grade bio-ethanol as a solvent, said Lajotte.
"We use an eco-friendly process, with no chlorinated derivatives, no toluene and no methanol. While there will always be some customers that just buy on price, there have been several alerts and recalls in the past two-to-three years about toluene [a solvent used in the extraction process which is supposed to be removed from the final product].”
Meanwhile, sales of natural vanillin, which Rhodia manufactures from fermentation from ferulic acid from rice bran, were growing in the double digits, said Lajotte. “We are also looking at other natural sources of ferulic acid such as corn and sugar beet to see if we can produce it more cheaply.”