Skip to main content

Rapid Profiling and Authentication of Vanilla Extracts Using Gas Chromatography-Vacuum Ultraviolet Spectroscopy


Vanilla extracts are widely used as flavoring ingredients in foods, beverages, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals. Due to the high cost of producing high-quality natural extracts, artificial flavorings, such as ethyl vanillin and coumarin, are often used. For food safety and to ensure high-quality products, it is important to differentiate between natural and artificial extracts. In this work, gas chromatography-vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy (GC-VUV) was used for the determination of natural and artificial flavoring compounds in vanilla extract samples. Since the GC-VUV software is able to deconvolve co-eluting peaks based on their unique VUV/UV absorption spectra (125–240 nm), a compromise between resolution and speed of analysis (6- and 14-min runs on different polarity columns) could be made. LODs between 0.42 and 2.0 μg mL−1 were obtained for the tested flavoring compounds. Vanillin was present in extracts at the highest concentrations, from 108 to 5817 μg mL−1.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Bai L, Smuts J, Walsh P et al (2015) Permanent gas analysis using gas chromatography with vacuum ultraviolet detection. J Chromatogr A 1388:244–250. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2015.02.007

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Cicchetti E, Chaintreau A (2009) Comparison of extraction techniques and modeling of accelerated solvent extraction for the authentication of natural vanilla flavors. J Sep Sci 32:1957–1964. doi:10.1002/jssc.200800650

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cuadros-Rodríguez L, Ruiz-Samblás C, Valverde-Som L et al (2016) Chromatographic fingerprinting: an innovative approach for food “identitation” and food authentication—a tutorial. Anal Chim Acta 909:9–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Fan H, Smuts J, Bai L et al (2016) Gas chromatography–vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy for analysis of fatty acid methyl esters. Food Chem 194:265–271. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.08.004

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Fan H, Smuts J, Walsh P et al (2015) Gas chromatography–vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy for multiclass pesticide identification. J Chromatogr A 1389:120–127. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2015.02.035

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Gurnani N, Kapoor N, Mehta D et al (2014) Characterization of chemical groups and identification of novel volatile constituents in organic solvent extracts of cured Indian vanilla beans by GC-MS. Middle-East J Sci Res 22:769–776. doi:10.5829/idosi.mejsr.2014.22.05.21935

    Google Scholar 

  7. Hansen AS, Fromberg A, Frandsen HL (2014) Authenticity and traceability of vanilla flavors by analysis of stable isotopes of carbon and hydrogen. J Agric Food Chem 62:10326–10331

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Jager LS de, Perfetti GA, Diachenko GW (2007) Determination of coumarin, vanillin, and ethyl vanillin in vanilla extract products: liquid chromatography mass spectrometry method development and validation studies. J Chromatogr A 1145:83–88. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2007.01.039

  9. Jager LS De, Perfetti GA, Diachenko GW (2008) Comparison of headspace-SPME-GC–MS and LC–MS for the detection and quantification of coumarin, vanillin, and ethyl vanillin in vanilla extract products. Food Chem 107:1701–1709. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.09.070

  10. López-Vázquez C, Herminia Bollaín M, Berstsch K, Orriols I (2010) Fast determination of principal volatile compounds in distilled spirits. Food Control 21:1436–1441. doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2010.03.008

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Marles RJ, Compadre CM, Farnsworth NR (1987) Coumarin in vanilla extracts: its detection and significance. Econ Bot 41:41–47. doi:10.1007/BF02859345

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Mondello L, Tranchida PQ, Costa R et al (2003) Fast GC for the analysis of fats and oils. J Sep Sci 26:1467–1473. doi:10.1002/jssc.200301580

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Mondello L, Zappia G, Dugo P et al (2004) Fast GC for the analysis of essential oils. J Chromatogr Sci 42:1–8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Remaud GS, Martin YL, Martin GJG (1997) Detection of sophisticated adulterations of natural vanilla flavors and extracts: application of the SNIF-NMR method to vanillin and p-hydroxybenzaldehyde. J Agric Food Chem 45:859–866. doi:10.1021/jf960518f

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Riedl J, Esslinger S, Fauhl-hassek C (2015) Review of validation and reporting of non-targeted fingerprinting approaches for food authentication. Anal Chim Acta 885:17–32

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Santos IC, Schug KA (2017) Recent advances and applications of gas chromatography vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy. J Sep Sci 40:138–151. doi:10.1002/jssc.201601023.This

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Schenk J, Mao JX, Smuts J et al (2016) Analysis and deconvolution of dimethylnaphthalene isomers using gas chromatography vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy and theoretical computations. Anal Chim Acta 945:1–8. doi:10.1016/j.aca.2016.09.021

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Schug KA, Sawicki I, Carlton DD et al (2014) Vacuum ultraviolet detector for gas chromatography. Anal Chem 86:8329–8335. doi:10.1021/ac5018343

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Sinha AK, Sharma UK, Sharma N (2008) A comprehensive review on vanilla flavor: extraction, isolation and quantification of vanillin and others constituents. Int J Food Sci Nutr 59:299–326. doi:10.1080/09687630701539350

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Sinha AK, Verma SC, Sharma UK (2007) Development and validation of an RP-HPLC method for quantitative determination of vanillin and related phenolic compounds in Vanilla planifolia. J Sep Sci 30:15–20. doi:10.1002/jssc.200600193

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Sostaric T, Boyce MC, Spickett EE (2000) Analysis of the volatile components in vanilla extracts and flavorings by solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography. J Agric Food Chem 48:5802–5807

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Sproll C, Ruge W, Andlauer C et al (2008) HPLC analysis and safety assessment of coumarin in foods. Food Chem 109:462–469. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.12.068

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Thompson RD, Hoffmann TJ (1988) Determination of coumarin as an adulterant in vanilla flavoring products by high-performance liquid chromatography. J Chromatogr 438:369–382

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Walsh P, Garbalena M, Schug KA (2016) Rapid analysis and time interval deconvolution for comprehensive fuel compound group classification and speciation using gas chromatography-vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy. Anal Chem 88:11130–11138. doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.6b03226

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Weatherly CA, Zhang Y, Smuts JP et al (2016) Analysis of long-chain unsaturated fatty acids by ionic liquid gas chromatography. J Agric Food Chem 64:1422–1432. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.5b05988

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin A. Schug.

Ethics declarations


Support for this work was provided by VUV Analytics, Inc.

Conflict of Interest

Kevin A. Schug is a member of the scientific advisory board for VUV Analytics, Inc. Jonathan Smuts is an employee of VUV Analytics, Inc. Ines C. Santos declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Not applicable.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Santos, I.C., Smuts, J. & Schug, K.A. Rapid Profiling and Authentication of Vanilla Extracts Using Gas Chromatography-Vacuum Ultraviolet Spectroscopy. Food Anal. Methods 10, 4068–4078 (2017).

Download citation


  • Natural product extracts
  • Food adulteration
  • Fingerprint
  • Deconvolution
  • Coumarin
  • Fast gas chromatography