Essential Ingredients

Meet Our Vanilla Flavor—And The People Behind It

5 min read
Essential Protein is infused with sustainably-harvested vanilla extract straight from Madagascar. We spoke with one of our vanilla farmers to get an inside look at how the vanilla bean in our protein supplement is grown and sourced.
Essential Protein is infused with sustainably-harvested vanilla extract straight from Madagascar. We spoke with one of our vanilla farmers to get an inside look at how the vanilla bean in our protein supplement is grown and sourced.

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When we set out to develop a protein supplement, we had a few non-negotiables: First, it had to follow the science (we’re all about clinical testing and third-party quality certification); second, it had to offer life stage-specific formulas; and last—but certainly not least—it had to be unquestionably delicious. After all, the better something tastes, the easier it is to incorporate into a healthy habit.

The result? Essential Protein, the first traceable protein shake of its kind. Created in collaboration with ADM’s WILD Flavors (an esteemed flavor house with remarkable Traceability standards), and infused with hand-selected vanilla bean extract sustainably harvested in Madagascar—courtesy of ADM’s partnership with Sahanala, a Madagascar-based nonprofit—it’s a tasty way to help fill dietary gaps and support muscle protein synthesis.*

We spoke with Ratovojaona Benjamin, one of our vanilla farmers, to get the brief on the beans.

Ratovojaona Benjamin, one of Ritual's vanilla farmers.

Can you tell us about your background in vanilla farming?

My journey starts in 1999—that’s when I started planting vanilla, a legacy I inherited from my parents. I started with very few plants, but now it’s a different story. We’ve come a long way. This land is abundant—my family and I have never encountered [environmental] problems with growing vanilla here—so our biggest issues tend to be theft-related. Despite such challenges, vanilla farming is my livelihood, and it’s my duty to continuously learn and improve. Thanks to trainings given by the agronomists over at Sahanala, I’m able to regularly pick up tips on maintaining my fields and improving my production methods and yield.

What makes Madagascar vanilla different from vanilla grown elsewhere?

Madagascar vanilla is characterized by its fragrant aroma and vanillin concentration, both of which are known to be very good. The Madagascar soil, growing season, and climate all contribute to the flavor of vanilla grown here, creating a profile known by many as “quintessentially” vanilla. Beanie, resinous, vanillin notes are prevalent.

How have ADM and Sahanala supported you, your farms, and the community at large?

ADM and Sahanala provide so much support, both on the business front and the community end. This includes everything from scheduling agronomist-led training sessions, helping to secure fields, and providing equipment like flashlights and coveralls, to constructing local roads and wash houses and taking on distribution expenses during lean seasons.

What’s your favorite part about the work you do?

I’m grateful that the vanilla business is prosperous and allows me financial freedom and security. It’s also a meaningful pursuit: By planting vanilla in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way, I’m helping to create a better world for my descendants.

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