North American Ed. 2017
American Ed. 2018
On Ice Cream
"On Ice Cream" featured in Dairy Foods magazine
and sourced from "On Ice Cream" technical short courses.
In April 2000, Hurricane
Hudah ripped through the island of Madagascar, seriously damaging
the vanilla crop and reducing supply. This drove
vanilla prices up and flavor quality down. The impact of all this is
still being felt today. Nothing like adding salt to a wound, now there
are reports that there is failure of vanilla plants in Madagascar to
flower during the critical late months of 2002, which will affect the
2003 crop that becomes available for use as extract in 2004. Reprised
and updated here is “Tharp & Young On Ice Cream,” reflecting
on the old, recognizing the new and offering some recommendations to
help with the current and future vanilla situations.
What is the cause of and what can be done to cope with the current
limited availability of vanilla extract? What can be done to maintain
the quality and cost of vanilla ice cream?
and demand for vanilla is usually in balance, but since early 2000,
this has not been the case. When Hurricane Hudah visited Madagascar
-- the world’s major producer of vanilla beans -- it destroyed
almost one third of the total vanilla crop, just as the vanilla beans
maturing. Because it takes vanilla three years to replant, flower
and produce beans, and since it takes almost another year to get
ripened beans to market, the effect of this production loss has been
top of this crisis comes word that many vanilla plants failed to
flower during the critical flowering period of August through
November 2002 due to unseasonably wet, windy and cold conditions.
The 2003 crop is estimated to be between 40-75% lower than the
2002 crop. Other growing regions will not be able to make up the
and quality difference. Thus, many of the issues of supply, price
and quality will once again be discussed, argued and negotiated
throughout 2003 and beyond.
Just as critical as loss of production volume is change of flavor
quality. With demand outstripping supply, immature beans may get
Use of these immature beans can yield less than desirable flavor,
aroma and taste profiles. Alternate growing regions to Madagascar,
Indonesia, will not be able to deliver the flavor quality reflected
in vanilla from Madagascar. Indonesia’s crop, which is on a different
growing cycle, is now being bought and much of it is reported to be
early-picked, which translates to poor quality.
All this is most critical for dairy foods, which use nearly 70% of
all vanilla extract produced. At greatest risk are Category I (vanilla
ice creams) and Category II (vanilla-flavored ice creams), where
vanilla extract constitutes all or a high percent of added flavor.
flavored vanilla ice creams (Category III) are not affected.
taste and flavor quality are critical to achieve sensory targets.
What are your options?
First, look at the real need for vanilla extract
in all formulas including non-ice cream products. Can it be totally
or partially replaced with some other variant or replacer of vanilla
flavor? Can vanilla extract be spared in one product but used in
another? Pay careful attention to labeling requirements involved
changes that need to be considered. Can the amount and/or type of
vanilla extract(s) be modified? Might you consider a change in flavor
of ice cream?
Perhaps modifications to mix composition might assist. These could
be focused on reducing the impact of components or characteristics
that typically mask or modify the perception of vanilla flavor, such
as amount and type of corn sweeteners, total sweetness, total solids,
fat and serum solids including whey ingredients.
For example, low D.E.
(dextrose equivalent) corn syrups mute vanilla flavor. They are great
for various body and textural elements of ice cream, but too much
can reduce the fresh, “crispness” of fine vanilla flavor. High
molecular weight proteins can bind many of the fine volatiles of vanilla,
directly modifying the amount and rate at which these are released
Fat plays a factor too. Fat is the subtle carrier of many of vanilla’s
background volatiles and it too impacts the desired release of volatile
flavors. And don’t forget the impact of color and appearance
in the perception (quality and intensity) of any flavor. Most importantly,
work closely with your vanilla extract suppliers. There may be new
or, perhaps, not so new approaches, products and technologies that
may help manage a way through this new vanilla crisis.
As noted two years ago and unfortunately true today, this is not
a short-term situation. Take time and do it right.
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