Heilala Vanilla was started by the Ross family as an aid project in 2002. After a cyclone ravaged the Kingdom of Tonga, a chain of islands in the South Pacific, the New Zealand family partnered with a family in the village of Utungake to establish a small vanilla plantation.
Grown in virgin soil on coconut-husk frames, the Heilala Vanilla orchids were hand-pollinated and sustainably harvested before the traditional curing and drying process took place under the tropical sun. In 2004, the first modest 45 kilos (99 pounds) crop of the Bourbon beans was sold to some of the best chefs in New Zealand and Australia.
As the popularity of its pure vanilla products grows with pastry chefs and home bakers around the world — thanks both to its uniquely profound flavor as well as its ethical sourcing and organic growing practices — Heilala has since partnered with growers throughout Tonga. As a result, they have provided employment and infrastructure across a number of communities and made a significant impact on the Tongan economy — especially among its female employees. Being an integral part of Heilala Vanilla gives female employees the confidence, knowledge and business skills to step up to more strategic roles. As a result, there is an instilled sense of purpose and pride, which has a powerful effect on their independence, families, economic growth and the well-being of their communities.
In 2013, the Heilala Vanilla Foundation was established to ensure the ongoing sustainability of their unique partnership with the community in Tonga. The Foundation is a registered charitable trust with the New Zealand Charities Commission. Each year it selects a project to benefit the people of Vava’u.
Heilala is also aiming to develop the vanilla industry in the South Pacific and is assisting and advising growers in the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa. Most recently, Heilala partnered with a new group of growers in Uganda, working as a cooperative to improve the livelihoods of the community as well as producing high-quality Bourbon vanilla beans with a flavor profile similar to that of Tongan beans.
HEILALA VANILLA PASTE - BUY THE WORLD’S MOST AWARDED VANILLA
Multi-award winning Heilala Vanilla Paste combines pure vanilla extract with vanilla seeds. Perfect in all baking and light coloured desserts showcasing the seeds alongside the full vanilla flavour.