Vanilla, which is sometimes seen as a traditional ingredient in ice cream manufacture, can have many different distinctive qualities as dictated by various consumer preferences around the globe. As part of Givaudan's TasteEssentials programme, the manufacturer claims it has therefore looked at the profiles and consumer reactions to 75 of the most prominent vanilla flavoured ice creams to aid manufacturers in product innovation. According to the company, ingredient makers that have been previously reliant on certain vanilla grades for their products are either forced to rely on unstable raw material supplies, or face risking flavor profile by opting for synthetic extracts that may not always match quality requirements. Consumer insights With 4000 consumer responses to the ice cream products it tested, the company claims to be able to devise ingredients and flavors based on unparalleled insights into consumer needs. About 500 vanilla concepts have now been developed from the information provided by the TasteEssentials, with 150 actually reaching the testing stage, according to the company. Group flavourist Dave Bratton said that the program had provided the group with a much wider understanding of the various profiles attributable to vanilla. "Seeing the consumers' reactions to our prototypes made us realize that the universe of what is acceptable and indeed desirable for vanilla is far larger than we had previously thought," he stated. The manufacturer claims that through the program, manufacturers can additionally alleviate sourcing concerns for high quality vanilla as by using its various sustainable production programs that run in developing countries. TasteEssentials The vanilla flavor programme is part of the TasteEssentials approach, developed by the flavor and fragrances company to focus on the seven major global categories. The areas are chicken, beef, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, dairy and citrus. Between 2005 and 2008, the company concentrated on chicken, citrus and vanilla.R&D expenditure The company invests 10 per cent of its overall sales into R&D - that is, around €88.8m on 2007's figures - although it spends more on research for fragrances than for food. Givaudan claims to have 40 per cent of the world's flavourists working for it. On top of its TasteEssentials, Givaudan's R&D is broken down into five main categories. These are taste, delivery systems, fermentation, tools and ingredients.