It's made with glycerin, not alcohol
You might be thinking, isn't vanilla extract already breakfast-apropos? And you’re mostly right in your confusion. There’s not really anything un-breakfasty about classic vanilla extract. But the folks at Heilala Vanilla know a lot more about vanilla than you or I, and their inspiration to launch a morning-approved version is actually quite interesting.
The New Zealand-based company partners with vanilla growers in Tonga to secure vanilla beans. After the beans are harvested, the extraction process begins. “At Heilala we create [classic] vanilla extract via the following method—vanilla beans are chopped into small pieces and a cold extraction method is used to continually pass water and alcohol through the beans for several weeks to ensure the complex 200-plus flavor compounds of vanilla are extracted,” Jennifer Boggiss, CEO, Co-Founder, and Director of Heilala Vanilla told me in an email. “The mixture is then diluted with mineral water and placed in barrels for ageing before being filtered and bottled.” Unlike most vanilla, which is extracted with alcohol, their breakfast vanilla is extracted with glycerin.
Heilala Vanilla’s decision to launch Breakfast Vanilla (and another product simply called Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Extract) was because of the alcohol. Although there isn’t typically a large quantity of alcohol in a dish that has vanilla extract, the Heilala Vanilla team found that some customers weren’t keen on the idea of using any alcohol in recipes that weren’t cooked. The glycerin-based vanilla solves that problem.
Glycerin is often used in the food, beauty, and pharmaceutical industry as a sugar-free sweetner, thickening agent, and solvent. “Because glycerin is a more subtle solvent than alcohol it takes more time for the delicate flavor compounds to be released,” says Ruby Grant, General Manager of Sales and Marketing at Heilala Vanilla. Grant explained that Breakfast Vanilla takes nearly 50 percent longer to produce than classic vanilla extract. “The result is rich and creamy with a consistency similar to runny honey.”
Other than the fact that it's alcohol-free and a bit thicker, Breakfast Vanilla is identical to classic vanilla extract, and the products can be used interchangably. “We recommend adding half to one teaspoon to granola, oatmeal, smoothies, coffee, yogurt or juice” says Grant, who also noted that Breakfast Vanilla can be used to replace classic vanilla extract in cooked recipes as well.