Vanilla is used across our confectionery and ice cream products. We purchase around 1096 tonnes of natural vanilla flavor each year from Madagascar, the world’s leading producer.
Our vanilla supply chain
The vanilla spice we purchase comes from the Sambava, Antalaha, Vohemar and Andapa (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 direct suppliers.
Our approach to sourcing vanilla sustainably
We aim to ensure that our suppliers comply with our Responsible Sourcing Standard (pdf, 2Mb) requirements.
We have carried out an in-depth field investigation to evaluate the responsible sourcing risks and opportunities in our Malagasy vanilla supply chain. These include child labor and growers’ reliance on a single crop. We are now working to establish traceability through the complex supply chain of exporters, processors and collectors back to the gardens or plantations, in order to ensure responsibly sourced vanilla volume through the implementation of best practices.
To hold our suppliers and ourselves accountable as well as driving industry-wide transparency, we have published the list of our direct suppliers along with the names and locations of the vanilla curing sites in our supply chain (pdf, 0.3Mb).
Protecting children and workers
The vanilla sector faces several social and economic challenges in Madagascar. There are no bees there to pollinate the vanilla flowers, so pollination has to be done by hand, and flowers last for only one day. This makes pollination very labor-intensive and time-consuming. Fluctuating income is also a major challenge. About 80 000–100 000 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 increase the risk of child labor.
Our work with Givaudan
We have worked directly with the Givaudan Foundation since 2018 to improve access to education in communities from where we source. We evaluate the needs of teachers and children in vanilla-growing villages, monitor the construction and renovation of schools, and coordinate with local authorities to organize training and prepare and distribute teaching materials. In the 2019 school year, 3786 children benefited from the program.
Getting to the root of challenges
In addition to education, our rural development program with Givaudan focuses on:
- 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.
A key component of the program is to mobilize households in 32 vanilla-growing villages to take ownership and participate in community projects supporting essential needs, such as the construction of village water wells. We are currently investigating potential approaches to offering training in good financial practices, to encourage better management of household income/expenses.
Improving health and hygiene
Our project to improve health and hygiene focuses on making a practical difference to people’s everyday lives and changing attitudes about nurses and doctors. Often, when somebody is sick, families in the region won’t see a doctor. Reasons for this include a lack of knowledge about diseases, long distances to health centers, fear of the consequences of serious diseases and an overall lack of trust in doctors. However, many of the illnesses observed in these villages are preventable and are often the result of not drinking clean water.
Working with local and state health authorities, we organize training for farmers and villagers on the importance of clean water, focusing on how to use water wells, prevent waterborne disease and protect themselves against malaria. The training, which began in 2018, has already seen parents start taking their children to health centers for treatment.
The project’s village ambassadors
To help farmers diversify their incomes, the rural development program appoints village ambassadors to follow up on the program’s activities in their villages and get involved in training sessions. After receiving training from the program’s coordinators, the ambassadors follow up on village training programs – for example on education and health – and organize reminder sessions.
The impact of theft on vanilla farmers
As the price of vanilla is ever increasing and crime becomes a problem in Madagascar, farmers are cutting their yields too soon, which results in a low-quality produce with diminished flavor.
To tackle this, we are working with Givaudan to achieve full traceability of our vanilla beans. Givaudan is working with over 3000 Ecocert-certified farmers to geo-localize their plot of land using a GPS system, enabling the supplier to estimate the annual production capacity of each farmer. This can help to detect cases of theft, by determining if a farmer sells more than their known estimated capacity. In cases of illegal activity, farmers are removed from the registered list of farmers in the collection network. Nevertheless, theft is currently difficult to detect. That’s why a strong local presence of field teams is key, allowing regular engagement with the producers and raising awareness of the negative impacts of early picking and vacuum packing.