Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
Is our ice cream natural or synthetic?
The 2005 Export-Import Bank of India (exim bank) study on vanilla and its potential in India says that labelling laws for
ice cream can create a viable domestic market for the essence in the country. Vanilla flavoured ice cream accounts for over 40 per cent of the sales
in the country and this industry is one of the key users of this product. But currently, almost all the vanilla we eat is artificial, not natural.
According to the exim bank study, artificial vanilla flavoured ice cream accounts for 35 per cent of all ice cream sales
in the organised ice cream sector. This sector was valued at about Rs 500 crore in 2005; it is estimated to grow 15-20 per cent annually. The study
also reckoned that 200 tonnes of artificial vanillin was consumed by the food and beverage sector in 2005 with the ice cream industry alone
consuming about 130 tonnes.This consumption is expected to increase to 300 tonnes by 2007.
In India, ice cream makers include big names like Hindustan Lever, which sells the Kwality Walls brand, Amul, Vadilal and Mother Dairy. There are, in
fact, a few international brands in the fray as well. The exim bank study estimates that even if, "A mere 11 per cent of
the present synthetic vanillin used in ice cream industry is converted to natural vanillin use, the demand for about 15 tonnes of natural vanillin would
be created. This would mean a demand for 750 tonnes of cured vanilla beans, almost eight times the current production of the country."
Currently, in India, only Amul has launched its all natural flavour called Vanilla Royale. It is buying small quantities of extract from Vanilco. Mother
Dairy, the ice cream brand of the National Dairy Development, is conducting pilot trials of its new all-natural ice cream. The company told Down
To Earth that it expects a commercial launch in 2-3 months.
Observers say that commercial use of natural vanilla will require either mandatory use of vanilla in the ice cream, or at the very least labelling of the
product so that consumers know what they are buying.
In all countries, the price of synthetic vanillin is much cheaper than its natural original. But a lot of countries have introduced measures to promote
the use of the natural product in high-quality food.
In the us, fda has mandated that any confectionery that describes itself as "vanilla ice
cream," must be flavoured with natural vanilla extracts. For an ice cream to be called "vanilla flavoured ice cream," a mix of artificial and natural
essence has to be used. However, the natural ingredient has to be higher than the artificial substance. Ice creams in which synthetic vanillin
dominates the natural variety--or which have only synthetic vanillin--must be called "artificially flavoured vanilla ice cream".
extract, fda requires a minimum of 13.35 ounces (28.3 grammes) of vanilla beans to a gallon (approximately 3.8 litres)
of alcohol-water mixture, which has at least 65 per cent water content. Germany has labelling rules pertaining to vanilla use as well. Here food
regulations mandate that labelling must differentiate between natural and artificial vanilla. It also specifies food labels for natural bourbon vanilla.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act differentiates between natural flavours--obtained exclusively from natural product--natural
identical flavouring substances--chemically isolated from aromatic raw materials--and artificial flavouring substances--not in natural
products. It also has separate standards for the quality of ice cream. But there is no provision for either mandatory use of natural flavour, vanilla in
ice cream or labelling for it. Manufacturers can use natural or chemical vanilla and pass off the product as vanilla.
The Bureau of Indian Standards has specifications for ice cream. This standard which was last revised in 1995 makes no distinction between ice
cream using natural flavours and ones that use natural identical flavouring substances. It simply says, "vanilla extracts and various artificial or
imitation flavours shall be added to the mix after pasteurization."
When contacted by Down To Earth, ice-cream industry representatives harped on the difference in price between natural vanilla and
synthetic vanillin. They also say that 'stability' of the price is an important consideration. Currently, a litre of synthetic vanillin sells between Rs 250
and Rs 400, as against a litre of vanilla extract, which sells for between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000.
But the economics is not so straight-forward. Take the example of the Kerala milk cooperative also known as Milma. Since January 2006, Milma uses
natural vanilla to flavour ice cream, which costs Rs 4,000 a litre. Before this, it procured one litre of synthetic vanillin at Rs 310. But for
manufacturing 40 litres of ice cream mix (a gallon), Milma uses 40 ml of natural vanilla. In the case of synthetic vanilla it added 100 ml for the same
quantity of ice cream. In other words, it spent Rs 0.70 for one litre, using synthetic flavour and now it spends Rs 4 for the same litre with the
But there is another twist to the ice cream tale. To manufacture commercial ice cream, the product is pumped with air to give it the creamy texture
and volume. Without air the ice cream would be akin to an ice cube without the creamy texture and would be very hard to scoop.
The air component can comprise anywhere between 30 to 60 per cent of its total volume. In the case of Milma the air component is about 44.5 per
cent--for every litre of ice cream mix, Milma gets approximately 1.80 litres of ice cream. So for every litre of processed vanilla ice cream, Milma only
spends Rs. 2.20 for flavouring it naturally while it used to spend Rs 0.38 with synthetic vanillin. In Milma's case the difference of cost between the
natural and artificial ice cream comes to about Rs 1.92 per litre.
The exim bank study corroborates this. It notes that "use of natural vanilla concentrates in the Indian ice creams may
increase the final price to the consumers by about Rs 0.40 to Re 0.60 for every 200 ml cup of pure vanilla ice cream". Clearly, this cannot be too
high a price to pay.
The profit margins in ice cream range from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, hence the cost difference between the artificial and natural is not much.
The question is if consumers deserve better or not.