Case Study: Heilala Vanilla

Heilala Vanilla's Extract, Paste, and Powder


Heilala Vanilla is an award-winning vanilla producer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. It is a ‘farm to plate’ producer, growing vanilla on plantations in Tonga and managing processing, operations and marketing from Tauranga.
Exporting to 10 countries, Heilala Vanilla produces premium vanilla products. These include vanilla beans, pastes, extracts, syrups and its newest product – ground vanilla bean powder. With a focus on quality, its products have won many prestigious awards including the NZ Food Awards, Cuisine Artisan Awards and Australian Food Magazine Awards.

The challenge – increase production to meet demand

Heilala Vanilla wanted to increase its production of ground vanilla bean powder – a flavoursome product gaining popularity amongst raw food enthusiasts, food manufacturers and restaurateurs.

To produce vanilla powder, vanilla beans are dehydrated to zero percent humidity, then ground down. Low-temperature dehydration at 40 degrees Celsius or below helps maintain the flavour, and is a requirement of raw food production.

In its concept stages, vanilla powder production started small. A single household dehydrator was initially used to remove moisture from the beans, but demand increased exponentially. Soon 12 household dehydrators were operating full-time, with staff having to load and unload them regularly over the course of each month.

Heilala Vanilla quickly realised there was widespread demand for its new product, and a commercial dehydrator was needed to keep up. Most commercial dehydrators are not capable of working at low temperatures, so selecting the right option was challenging. A trial was important to ensure the commercial dehydrator Heilala Vanilla chose would meet its needs.

Heilala Vanilla Logo

The solution – a Kiwi-made dehydrator

Heilala Vanilla consulted Bay of Plenty dehydration specialist Drying Solutions, which installed an energy-efficient Rexmoi® Air Tray Dryer.

The Rexmoi® was able to ramp up the production of vanilla powder, with one unit performing what was previously a month’s work for 12 dehydrators in just three days.

Vanilla powder is now produced using trolleys loaded with 500 kilograms of raw vanilla beans that are wheeled in and out of the air tray dryer. The ability to load and dehydrate large quantities in a single production run has saved a considerable amount of time for staff and dramatically improved efficiency.

To install another brand of commercial dehydrator, Heilala Vanilla would have had to import it from overseas or have it custom-made. Most other options do not include on-site support or rental. In contrast the Rexmoi® Air Tray Dryer could be easily transported and installed on a rental basis, with expert support from Drying Solutions when needed.

The results – massive increases in productivity and efficiency

The Rexmoi® Air Tray Dryer enabled Heilala Vanilla to increase its production of ground vanilla bean powder to meet growing consumer demand for raw and pure foods.

With the help of the Rexmoi®, production has increased from 120 kilograms per year to 2.4 tonnes per year. The unit is also capable of increasing production on a much greater scale if demand continues to escalate.

The humidity of the vanilla is now detected at all parts of the process using digital sensors, ensuring a product of the highest quality that does not contain moisture and meets food safety standards.

The unit also records the temperature across each dehydration run, enabling Heilala Vanilla to review temperature data from any point in time and accurately demonstrate its credentials as a raw food producer.

We were at a point where we had to scale up what we were doing. The Rexmoi® unit does the job of the 12 domestic dehydrators we were using previously, and can produce 20 times more. It is producing a higher quality product and it is much more accurate.

– Garth Boggiss, Director, Heilala Vanilla

Heilala Vanilla Powder