engage your senses

On the trail of tonka

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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New discoveries by Givaudan perfumers: the roasted tonka bean

As part of the tonka project we have also developed a new and exclusive product, Tonka Roasted Bean, which is certified organic by Ecocert. With its roasted tones, the new ingredient brings new notes of dried cocoa powder to fragrance creation.

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.

 

Ethical sourcing programme

Sustainable actions such as these are a result of our ‘Ethical sourcing’ programme, whereby we selected special ingredients to protect and nurture over the long-term. This programme recognises the importance of maintaining the world’s supplies of unique raw materials. By operating sustainable business models involving people, products, the environment and society, the future of these resources can blossom.

Read more about our other ethical sourcing programmes below:

Benzoin
Lavender
Patchouli
Sandalwood
Vanilla
Vetiver
Ylang ylang