Vanilla is one of our key ingredients, with natural vanilla flavour used in our confectionery and ice cream products. We purchase around 795 tonnes of natural vanilla flavour a year, most of it from Madagascar, one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla.

How we source vanilla

The vanilla spice we purchase comes mainly from the Sambava, Antalaha, Vohemar and Andap (SAVA) regions, where it is 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 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.

Vanilla supply chain challenges and solutions

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. Low 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.

Child labour

Child labour is a risk within the vanilla supply chain. This is an issue we are working hard to address, by tackling the root causes. These include the fluctuating incomes of many farmers and the labour-intensive nature of vanilla farming, which can often result in children being used in the labour force. We continue to work with our supplier Givaudan, which has extended and improved access to educational facilities for farmers’ children.

In addition, to date Nestlé has directed resources and funding to sponsor the building of four additional schools close to our sourcing locations, and to support the development of infrastructure for a health centre.

Having previously focused our responsible sourcing activities on one supplier, in 2016 we started to engage with our second supplier, MANE, looking at possible projects with them to increase our activities on the ground.

Our annual objectives

Vanilla supply chain traceability results

Vanilla supply chain traceability chart. Total volume in scope: 795 tonnes. Percentage of volume traceable (back to plantation): 98% (2016 target: 95%). Percentage of volume Responsibly Sourced (Responsible Sourcing Guideline improvement projects, i.e. fund suppliers’ initiatives): 38% (2016 target: 60%)
  • Total volume in scope 795 tonnes
    Percentage of volume traceable (back to plantation) 98% (2016 target: 95%)
    Percentage of volume Responsibly Sourced (Responsible Sourcing Guideline improvement projects, i.e. fund suppliers’ initiatives) 38% (2016 target: 60%)

Our progress

In 2016, Givaudan and their local partner, SOMAVA, progressed the rural development programme by:

  • Improving vanilla bean quality through the provision of technical assistance to farmers;
  • Promoting the System of Rice Intensification to increase the yields of locally grown, pesticide-free rice, thereby strengthening food security;
  • Supporting the development of alternative sources of revenue, such as beekeeping, fisheries, keeping small livestock, and handicrafts;
  • Improving access to water by building wells and irrigation dams; and
  • Supporting the building, extension and repair of schools, health centres and access roads.

To date, our Tier 1 supplier Givaudan has benefited approximately 4500 schoolchildren and supported over 3000 certified organic vanilla farmers through its rural development programme.

Looking ahead

We will continue to work with Givaudan on existing projects, and to explore with MANE the possibility of new activities. We will also review and further develop our strategy in 2017 to ensure it remains appropriate to tackle the issues on the ground.

Related content