When it comes to current supply and demand for pure vanilla extract, the situation is this. Supplies are down this year, but because manufacturers reformulated products last year in response to the anticipated shortage brought on by Hurricane Hudah in 2000, global demand is actually down about 20%, which has resulted in supplies meeting demands, and then some.

However, vanilla extract manufacturers are not expecting demand for pure vanilla to decrease much more, yet they are expecting supply to be significantly down in 2004 as a result of the 2003 crop flowering problems. The 2003 crop is expected to be down 40-75%.

What does this mean to formulators? Well, for some, it means nothing. But for those less willing to pay exorbitant prices for pure vanilla next year, it is back to the lab bench to try and reduce usage _levels. In the dairy industry, particularly within the ice cream segment, this can be quite a challenge, as it requires label changes, and in some instances, could go against a brand's image.

For the record, ice cream made with pure vanilla extract, vanilla beans and vanilla powder can be called "Vanilla Ice Cream." If a combination of pure and imitation vanilla extract is used, the label must read "Vanilla-flavored Ice Cream." In this case, vanilla beans, vanilla extract or vanilla powder can be used with vanillin (artificial vanilla), as long as the amount of vanillin does not exceed 1-oz vanillin per one "vanilla constituent" unit, as defined by regulation. The use of WONF (with other natural flavors) components with vanilla extract is allowed but is restricted to 49% of the total vanilla ingredient. The last option, which is referred to as Category III ice cream is product made solely from imitation vanilla. This label reads "Artificially Flavored Vanilla Ice Cream."

With other dairy products, various combinations of the words "made with natural and artificial flavors" are simply stated on labels.

Dairy Foods has solicited the assistance of leading vanilla and flavor suppliers to provide readers with tips on how to effectively use vanilla during these crucial months when supply may not meet demand. Here's what two experts have to say.