Nielsen-Massey: Great flavours, good conscience

A generous scoop of silky smooth ice cream or a perfectly baked cupcake with a light-as-air swirl of frosting… It’s hard to imagine either of these without conjuring up thoughts of the sweet, creamy taste of vanilla. Ever since 1907, family-owned Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has been dedicated to crafting the world’s finest flavours, and their extracts and pastes are widely considered the very best you can buy. Perhaps most famous for Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract, just a drop of their intensely-flavoured extracts – be it coffee, chocolate, lemon, almond, orange, peppermint or rose water – will give a wonderful depth to transform your recipes, both sweet, savoury and everything in between.

Extract or essence?

Do you know the difference? They’re actually leagues apart, and Nielsen-Massey’s extracts and food flavours are not to be confused with weaker, inferior essences commonly available. Their extracts are always made with real, top-notch ingredients, so ‘cheap’ synthetic essences really can’t compete. Nielsen-Massey aims for perfection, and is dedicated to only using the very best vanilla beans (you can read more about that here); but where the beans come from, crop sustainability and the welfare of the vanilla growing community are equally as important.

A growing conscience

Social responsibility is something that Nielsen-Massey takes seriously, and quite right too. Producing the purest, finest quality products has always been a core value, but making the world a better place to live ranks even higher.

As part of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative, Nielsen-Massey invests in many projects to support the global health of the vanilla-growing industry. In Indonesia, Nielsen-Massey is exploring plans for a Food Forest Garden initiative, so farmers can grow complementary fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and vegetables alongside vanilla to promote a more sustainable way of living.

In addition to being committed to promoting positive environmental practices that make vanilla a more sustainable crop, Nielsen-Massey also has many initiatives to improve economic prospects for the farmers who make it possible for you to add that vanilla-ry loveliness to your bakes.

In one village in Madagascar, Nielsen-Massey has worked with local suppliers to support the building of a simple toilet system and water cistern. By providing access to clean water and good hygiene practices, it’s hoped that quality of life will be improved for the farmers, their families and the wider community. It’s these simple things which we take for granted that are making a big difference to vanilla-growing communities.

For example, when asked what else might improve their working day and make a positive impact on their well-being, Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascan vanilla farmers asked for waterproofs to wear while tending to their crop. A simple wish to fulfil, but one that has a real benefit to the farmers.

In the aftermath of a 2017 hurricane, thousands of households were given new vanilla vines, as well as vegetable seeds to help promote food security, while 41 vanilla farmers from the Madagascar village of Andranovato received 500 new vanilla vines each, as well as raincoats, boots and torches to protect their valuable crop from theft. It all helps in communities where vanilla is a precious – and vital – commodity.

“We now define ourselves as “a family business committed to sustaining the plants, people and communities that supply our ingredients because our interests are inseparable.”

The crop report

The vanilla industry is fragile, and has experienced tough times in recent years. The entire supply chain has struggled with price fluctuations and limited availability, and poor farming and harvesting practices have harmed the quality of some beans. Precious beans are at risk of theft and extreme weather events have wiped out entire crops in some regions. Add trade politics to this and the industry becomes incredibly complex, which explains why vanilla prices have increased in recent years.

Nielsen-Massey is committed to only ever using the very, very best beans from sustainable sources, so although each bottle might seem expensive initially, you can be certain it’s a truly premium product that’s been bottled in good conscience. After all, you really do get what you pay for.

A century of social consciousness

Closer to its Chicago home, Nielsen-Massey has been demonstrating its commitment to social responsibility since way back in 1907, financially supporting various organisations in their local communities. Nowadays, ten percent of profits are donated to Nielsen-Massey’s Charitable Contributions Committee, which assists groups that support education, at-risk children and youths, military and veteran organisations, and environmental protection. So every time you buy one of their fabulous flavours you’re helping to fund good things. Well done you!

Feel-good flavours

All of these efforts really do make a difference but, when it comes to choosing where to spend your money, it’s what’s in the bottle that really matters. The saying goes that ‘the proof is in the pudding’, and having sampled the pudding (and the ice cream, and the berry almond tart…) we’re still delighted to include Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla extract in our range, over a decade after first discovering the difference it makes.

Nielsen-Massey is committed to quality in all of their flavours, and has kindly provided us with a few delicious recipes to show you just how wonderful they are. Enjoy!

Flavourful florals

The vanilla vine is an orchid, and is the only edible fruit-bearing member of the orchid family. In Mexico, Indonesia and Madagascar, the orchid is Vanilla planifolia Andrews. In Tahiti, it is Vanilla tahitensis Moore.

Flavour-packed vanilla pods

A vanilla bean is the fruit (or seedpod) that grows on the orchid plant. Each plant needs to be pollinated by hand; the pods are green when picked, and only develop their dark colour and complex flavours after being dried, after which point they look like black-ish string beans.

Is it a boozy bean?

No – the term ‘Bourbon’ is a geographic reference to the Bourbon Islands – Madagascar, the Comoros, Réunion, Seychelles and Mauritius – that are located off the eastern coast of Africa. While there is alcohol in Nielsen-Massey’s extracts, most of it will be ‘cooked off’ during the preparation of your dish.

Worth its weight in…

Silver! High demand, low supply and industry politics have driven prices as high as the precious metal.

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