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Our raw materials: Vanilla | Nestlé

Vanilla is one of our key ingredients, with natural vanilla flavour used in our confectionery and ice creams. We purchase around 692 tonnes of natural vanilla flavour a year from Madagascar, one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla.

92% of our total vanilla purchased in 2017 was responsibly sourced

98.5% of our total vanilla purchased in 2017 was traceable to its source

2 new schools built and 7 reconstructed after cyclone in Madagascar in 2017 with Nestlé’s support

Sourcing vanilla responsibly

The vanilla spice we purchase comes from the Sambava, Antalaha, Vohemar and Andap (SAVA) districts of Madagascar. It is mostly produced by small growers in rural, sometimes remote, villages, where social and educational infrastructures are underdeveloped. We do not source vanilla directly, but through our Tier 1 suppliers.

Although we do not have category-specific requirements for natural vanilla flavour, our Responsible Sourcing Guideline (RSG) requirements cover compliance with local and national regulations and laws, labour practices, environmental impacts and the creation of shared value. After carrying out an in-depth field investigation to evaluate the responsible sourcing risks and opportunities in our Malagasy vanilla supply chain, we created our Responsible Sourcing strategy for the category. It seeks to establish traceability through the complex supply chain of exporters, processors and collectors back to the gardens or plantations, and seeks to ensure Responsibly Sourced vanilla volume through the implementation of best practices.

Find out more about our responsible sourcing of vanilla in our video

Supply chain challenges and solutions

Labour-intensive harvesting

There are no bees in Madagascar to pollinate the vanilla flower, so pollination has to be done by hand, and flowers last for only one day. This makes pollination very labour-intensive and time-consuming. Fluctuating income is also a major factor. About 80 000 to 100 000 Madagascan farmers rely almost exclusively on vanilla for their income. Sometimes, they harvest too early because they need cash to buy food, or because of a lack of access to resources and expertise. Together, these factors also mean that child labour is a risk.

Recovering from Cyclone Enawo

Madagascar was badly affected by a cyclone in March 2017. Cyclone Enawo – the largest to hit the island in 13 years – is estimated to have damaged around 30% of Madagascar’s total vanilla crop.

Nestlé has been funding projects to support women farmers affected by the cyclone to replace damaged vanilla trees, enabling them to rebuild their livelihoods. We also provided alternative crops for the farmers, who are often reliant on vanilla alone for their income. By helping them develop vegetable gardens, with crops such as rice, we can support the farmers to build alternative income sources and improve their livelihoods.

Child labour

Child labour is a risk within the vanilla supply chain, and one we are working hard to address by tackling the root causes. These include, among others, the fluctuating incomes of many farmers and the labour-intensive nature of vanilla farming, which often result in children being used in the labour force. As part of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative, we are collaborating with the International Labour Organization and the US Department of Labor on a four-year project to support sustainable and child labour-free vanilla-growing communities in the Sava region of Madagascar.

We also work directly with our supplier Givaudan to improve working and living conditions for vanilla-farming communities. Our activities include projects focused on:

  • Increasing productivity of vanilla farming;
  • Improving food security through the sustainable intensification of rice production and kitchen gardens;
  • Schemes for income diversification through activities such as beekeeping and fish breeding;
  • Improving access to water and sanitation in farming communities; and
  • Building and refurbishing schools to provide better access to schools.

These rural programmes are benefiting 50 000 inhabitants in 32 villages, including some 3000 vanilla farmers and 4500 children.