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On the trail of tonka

Givaudan Story
  • Explore our travel book
  • Watch the video
  • New discoveries by Givaudan perfumers: the roasted tonka bean
  • Responsible sourcing programme
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For the ‘sarrapiero’ communities in Venezuela, the wrinkly brown seed of the tonka bean is akin to black gold. This precious, wild-grown raw material used in luxury fine fragrances is prized for its surprising deep, warm, sweet note reminiscent of caramel, almond and tobacco.

Known locally as ‘sarrapia’, this sweet bean is believed to bring good luck. Now, as Givaudan engages for the long term, we are sowing the seeds for a strong future.

Many consumers might think they are unfamiliar with the tonka bean, but they will certainly know its aroma. One of the most frequently used ingredients in luxury fragrances, and a sustainable alternative to relying on vanilla stocks, tonka is widely used. It features heavily in iconic fragrances with a fruity-candy aroma, such as Thierry Mugler’s ‘Angel’ and Le Mâle by Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Tonka is much loved by Givaudan perfumers and customers yet it is an ingredient that hails from a fragile ecosystem.

Preserving quality, conserving rainforests

To preserve the supply of the tonka bean and ensure optimal stewardship of the communities in Venezuela where the bean is sourced, in 2007, Givaudan signed an exclusive agreement with Conservation International, an international non-profit organisation, to support a project that ensures forest conservation and supports livelihoods in the lower Caura Basin area of Venezuela, where the bean primarily grows.

Through this agreement, local communities receive technical and productivity assistance, such as guidance on improved techniques for drying and storing the beans or newer, faster harvest routes. This is in exchange for their commitment to preserving 88,000 hectares of forest and the flora and fauna in them.

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Watch the video
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Watch the video

New discoveries by Givaudan perfumers: the roasted tonka bean
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Facts about tonka beans

‘Dipteryx odorata’, the tonka bean comes from a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae
Central America and northern South America: the tree is native to these regions
88,000 hectares: Givaudan’s ethical sourcing initiative will secure biodiversity protection in the Amazonian forest
Aphrodisiac: with a warm, sensual aroma, tonka is used in perfumery to have a positive effect on the opposite sex!
Insecticide: tonka bean contains high levels of ‘coumarin’ which acts as a natural pesticide for the tree, allowing it to grow undisturbed
Responsible sourcing programme
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Responsible sourcing programme

We have always shown leadership in responsible sourcing, traceability, and transparency to meet our customer, consumer and environmental needs and expectations; Givaudan was the first in the flavours and fragrances industry to publish a responsible sourcing policy. Sourcing4Good is based on collaboration and knowledge-sharing, experience and expert input from suppliers, customers and partners.