FAQ - Singing Dog Vanilla
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What on earth is a Singing Dog?

SingingDog
The New Guinea Singing Dog is a dog native to Papua New Guinea that does not bark. It prefers to “sing” somewhat like a whale. It is related to the Australian dingo. Find out more about these fascinating animals at the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society website by clicking here.

Hear the Singing Dog Sing

Does “Bourbon” mean that it is extracted with bourbon alcohol?
No, Bourbon refers to the region (Madagascar, Reunion Island, etc.) in which the vanilla is grown and has no relationship with the alcohol by the same name. Many people use the word Bourbon to refer to the Planifolia species of plant that is most prevalent in Madagascar, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. The name Bourbon refers to the French Bourbons who ruled Madagascar at the time of the first vanilla cultivation there.
I have allergies, can I use your pure vanilla extract and/or alcohol free pure vanilla flavor?
Please see our allergen statement by clicking here. Our pure vanilla extracts are gluten free and sugar free. The alcohol in our organic pure vanilla extract is derived from sugar cane and the alcohol in our conventional extract is derived from corn. The process of making ethyl alcohol begins with yeast converting sugars into ethanol. This is followed by a distillation process in which only the ethanol is boiled off and then condensed into concentrated ethanol. This series of steps ensures that no matter what base material you start with the end result is pure ethanol with no sugar, yeast or corn proteins.

The glycerin in our Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor is derived from vegetable sources. It is commonly made from coconut or palm oil but the base ingredients can change. Glycerin is made from the fat present in the plant material and proteins are excluded during the manufacturing process so the final product contains essentially no plant proteins (only trace amounts are possible).

Since food allergies are an immune response to food proteins there is very low risk associated with these products and all of our products are gluten free. Of course, flavorings are generally used in such small amounts that the risk is further reduced but you should consult your doctor before making a decision if your allergy is severe.

What does “single fold” mean?
The FDA regulates what constitutes strength, or fold. Single fold means that 13.4 oz of vanilla pods are extracted into one gallon of alcohol. Only vanilla extracted in 35% alcohol is considered pure by the FDA. Double fold, triple fold, etc. refers to extracts using more vanilla pods. These stronger folds are generally used only by commercial food producers. All home recipes are designed for single fold and most bakers and chefs use single fold.
Why do you specify that it is sugar-free or corn syrup free?
Because most of the vanilla extracts on the market contain more sugar, corn syrup or dextrose than vanilla. They do this to speed up the aging process that makes the vanilla taste more “mellow” with a minimized alcohol smell. We simply age our vanilla naturally to achieve the same result.
Will my baked goods taste like alcohol?
No, all of the alcohol will burn off in the oven. Alcohol evaporates at a much lower temperature than water does (173 F).
Can I buy Singing Dog Vanilla products in stores?
Yes! Use our store locator to find a retail outlet near you.
Is Singing Dog Vanilla gluten free?
Yes, all of our vanilla beans and vanilla extract is gluten free. Most people with specific conditions such as Celiac disease (caused by an abnormal reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat) are concerned about the possible glutens that may be found in alcohol derived from wheat. Although it is fairly well understood that the distillation process by which alcohol is made would not carry the proteins (gliadin) and would thus not be a threat to gluten intolerant people, we have taken the extra precaution of using only corn-based alcohol in our conventional vanilla extracts and sugar cane based alcohol in our organic vanilla extracts. Singing Dog Vanilla™ products have also been reviewed and approved by the Feingold Association as being safe for consumption by people with Celiac disease. www.feingold.org/faq.php For more information about gluten click here
What is the nutritional information for your vanilla extract?
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract is approximately 4 grams

What is the nutritional information for your vanilla bean paste?
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla bean paste contains the following:

Does the glycerin in your Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor contain corn?
The glycerin in our Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor is derived from vegetable sources. Since corn is not the most efficient base material to make glycerin from it is unlikely to be used but the base ingredients can change. Glycerin is made from the fat present in the plant material and proteins are excluded during the manufacturing process so the final product contains essentially no plant proteins (only trace amounts are possible). Since food allergies are an immune response to food proteins there would be minimal allergen risk associated with this product.
Why don't you offer organic versions of the Vanilla Bean Paste and and Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor?
There continues to be a global shortage on the vegetable glycerin used in our Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor. Similarly, it is difficult to find a consistent source for the gum tragacanth used in the Vanilla Bean Paste. We are monitoring the situation with these two ingredients and hope to be able to offer organic versions in the future.
How do you make the Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor? Is it made from real vanilla?
Our Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla Flavor is extracted in a vegetable based glycerin which serves the same purpose that alcohol does in a traditional extract. It cannot be called an “extract” because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that anything labeled as an extract must contain alcohol. The flavor comes exclusively from real vanilla beans with nothing else added.

No alcohol is used in the manufacture of our alcohol free pure vanilla flavor

What type of plastic is your quart bottle made from? Will it leach chemicals?
The plastic bottle we use for our larger size vanilla extracts is made from HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) which is FDA approved for food use. This material is known to be safe for repeated and continuous use and has the added benefit of being easily recyclable (Recycle symbol #2). There are many different types of plastic bottles and some of them are used because of their higher strength, which allows the bottle to be made with thinner walls so less plastic is used, or because they can be made in a variety of colors or more easily decorated. Recent research has questioned the safety of some of these materials due to leaching. The plastic we use has been the industry standard for decades because it has been shown to be safe and reliable for a wide variety of uses. It may not be the prettiest plastic bottle on the shelf but it has proven to be a safe choice.
How should I store vanilla beans?
Whole vanilla beans should be stored in a sealed container in a cool dry place. They should not be refrigerated or frozen as this can cause a loss of flavor and quality. Refrigeration can lead to mold growth and freezing can cause vanillin (the primary flavor compound in vanilla) to migrate to the surface and be subsequently lost during handling.
Jul.
30

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Last week I made two calls within 5 minutes: The first call was to the company I use every year, and the second to the company I will be using from now on.  The reason for the switch is a good reminder to make sure our company’s systems don’t get in the way of basic customer service. Every year we have our home heating and air conditioning unit serviced by the same company.  They’re a large outfit with multiple locations throughout Oregon. Their customer service is average. But their phone number is stenciled onto the control unit, so it’s easy to just look at the wall and make the call. This year the company’s internal systems got in the way. I called and was told the person who schedules home service is out to lunch (literally, not metaphorically) but will be back in about an hour or so. I was given two options:  Leave a message on her voice mail or call back in 1 ½ hours.  She sheepishly informed me that it is their policy to have separate people schedule commercial and residential jobs. They might have a very good reason for this. But, as a customer who just wants to have my air conditioning working, it would be just as easy for me to dial a competitor’s number as it is to dial theirs again. Admittedly, I was already becoming dissatisfied with the customer service at the first company and this was the thing that finally solidified my decision to make a change.   This company wanted my business. I called another company that was happy to schedule a service for the next morning.  Two days later they ended up replacing my entire heating/air system.  Not allowing the commercial scheduler to book a residential job cost the first company thousands of dollars and many years of my continued business. The service tech from the new company was able to sell me a new system, accept payment, and schedule the install crew. All from my driveway.   Check your policies and processes. How many processes in your company make sense internally, but create a small hurdle for your customers?  Think about your experiences as a customer of other businesses.  How many times have you been frustrated or simply gave up because of a process that makes life easier for the company, but makes things more difficult for you, the customer? Do you really like hearing, “And please listen carefully as some options have changed”? Do your customers like to use your automated phone system?   Do you like it when you buy a bagel at the counter and the touch screen payment system automatically displays “TIP:  10%  15%   20%” while the cashier stares at you?   Does your bakery do this to your customers? How many people hesitate to pick up a pastry and coffee because of this?   Do your customers have to “create an account” before they can purchase something from your website?   Can your customers easily learn your pricing online or by phone? Or do they have to provide you with information first?   Does your Employee of the Month or management really need the best spots in the parking lot? Or would those be better left available for customers?   Look at Customer Service through the eyes of the customer. What are the obstacles you have put in the way of your customers in the name of efficiency?  We get so buried in the daily operations of our companies, we sometimes forget to view our processes through the eyes of a customer. Remember, as soon as a potential customer picks up the phone or clicks on our website, they are wanting to do business with us.  We should make that as easy as possible.  

Jul.
05

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Niche markets are great, but what about a micro niche market? I recently met the owner of Synergyair, a successful company serving people who need assistance assembling airplane kits.  My first thought was, “I never imagined there was a need for such a thing”. It turns out that a combination of FAA regulatory issues and technical challenges makes this micro-niche possible. We’ve all met people who run successful businesses in very narrow niche markets. You may have wondered how on earth anyone can make a living servicing such a small market, let alone build a job-creating, profitable enterprise. If you are considering starting a business or are looking for some new energy for your existing business, consider focusing on a micro-niche. What is a “micro-niche”? To understand what a “micro-niche” is, let’s first start by describing a “niche market”.  Isotoner is a brand commonly associated with selling fashionable gloves.  They serve a fairly narrow niche market.  Not everyone is actively searching for gloves, but when the desire for a quality pair of gloves to match a clothing ensemble arises, Isotoner will be a solid company to shop. They will never have the market size of companies such as Nike or Netflix, but they can be a dominate player in the niche market for gloves. What if you took the glove business to an even narrower, micro-niche?  What about people with only one hand? People with one hand need a single glove, yet they are often required to buy a pair. What do they do with the remaining glove? It’s a real problem that real people face. Check out this blog post written by Alejandro Anastasio: OneHandSpeaks. In this post he describes this exact problem. I didn’t find any companies focusing on gloves for these potential customers, but I did find other products being sold to this micro-niche.  Did you know there are computer keyboards for people with one hand?  Brilliant!   Connecting with your fans.   Lie-Nielsen Tools only makes expensive, high quality hand tools.  Picky Bars sells specially formulated energy bars to long-distance runners and cyclists.  CocoPolo sells chocolate bars primarily to people reducing carbs in their diet.  Have you ever heard of any of these companies? If you are not making hand-crafted furniture, competing in triathlons, or on a Keto diet, you are probably not a potential customer of these three companies.  Each of these companies has successfully built a solid customer base within their very narrow market.  They have few competitors and have loyal fans. Forty years ago, it may have been too difficult or too expensive to reach potential customers in a micro-niche.  Today, our global connectivity allows us to effectively communicate our offerings to these customers wherever they are.  More importantly, our micro-niche customers are well connected within communities of people who share the same wants or needs. Your customers will tell others within their community about your business.  If you serve your micro-niche well, with a quality offering, you will be amazed by how quickly the word will spread. Micro-niche companies have little need for advertising. Here at Singing Dog Vanilla we do not advertise. Our customers who want organically grown, fair trade, sugar free, gluten free, vanilla, tell others about our products.   Is “micro” niche market too small? It's reasonable to assume that a business focusing on too narrow of a niche will never become a giant like Microsoft or Amazon.  If your goal is to build a company with the greatest number of customers and a budget for Super Bowl ads, then you are correct. However, consider my example company that sells gloves to people with one hand.  How many potential customers are there in the USA?  The answer is tens of thousands.  What if you expand your offering globally?  Or even grow to include shoes for people with only one foot? Well, your potential customer base rises to millions of individuals. Your business can grow to become a very big fish within a micro-niche pond.

May.
19

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Do you understand your magic ingredient? If you're thinking about moving to a new location, it’s probably because you are doing well at your current location, but you just need a larger place.  Your Bakery Café has a loyal customer base.  They love your service, appreciate that you use only real ingredients, and are willing to pay for quality.  You just need a larger space to accommodate all of them.  Is that all you need to grow? Or is there another magic ingredient? I know of a cafe that was doing so well they moved to a larger location just around the corner on the opposite side of the block.  Same employees, same treats, same owners, same clean ingredients, and the same rent for twice the space. But something was wrong. Sales actually dropped. New location could be missing something. It turns out that at their old location, many people from the yoga studio next door, and from the bank building on the corner, had to walk past the bakery on their way to the parking structure.  There were also a couple of other restaurants on their side of the block that fed a steady stream of after hours business. Even though they were only a 3-minute walk away from their old location, the business microenvironment was very different. Out of sight, out of stomach. Not only did the new location require those same people to cross a busy intersection, but the new shop could no longer be seen (or smelled!) by people as they finished yoga or left their office to find their parked car.  Unless a person stood on the corner and looked in the opposite direction they would have no idea the cafe even existed. They did gain a few new customers from the playground next door and the bus station across the street (next to the other side of that same bank building…yes, that close!). But so far, they have not regained all their former customers.  The pastries are so good that most are willing to wait at the light and cross the intersection. But, they don’t come as often since it’s no longer on the way to their car or visible after exiting a restaurant. Their cinnamon rolls are incredible so hopefully more people will explore around the corner to find them. Turns out one of their magic ingredients was location.

Apr.
18

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If you are in the baking world you know that the first Friday of June each year is National Doughnut Day. Note: Both ‘Donut’ and ‘Doughnut’ are accepted spellings. Many references (well OK, Wikipedia) cite that ‘donut’ is often used in the USA.  ‘Doughnut’ is the more accepted spelling around the world. For this post I will stick to the ‘Doughnut’ spelling because is makes me feel smarter for some reason. Trendy Doughnut Like beer and yogurt (Yoghurt?), doughnuts have gone through a renaissance.  Just as the large breweries and yogurt firms had to adopt a newer, trendier, approach to compete with artisan upstarts (or just buy them outright!), we have seen old doughnut standards make attempts at cool.  Dunkin’ Donuts and Winchell’s first had to deal with Krispy Kreme when it was hip.  Now all three must contend with smaller, independent bakeries and doughnut shops as they explore the boundaries of the deep-fried dough and test the very definition of “doughnut”. Check out this boundary-breaking offering from District Donuts, Sliders, and Brew in New Orleans?  Here is a photo from their website. Can you guess what this is? This Monte Cristo is listed on their menu as a “Croquenut” and is made with Applewood smoked ham, Havarti cheese, Dijon, in a griddled donut topped with raspberry preserves and powdered sugar. Doesn't it look Amazing? The link on their name (above) takes you straight to their menu.  You'll end up there anyway. I might as well save you a few steps. How about Welcome Chicken and Donuts in Phoenix, Arizona? ... Once again, why waste time? The link is to their menu.... There you can get your favorite chicken and donut combination for lunch or just grab a South by Southwest Donut Sandwich that includes Fried Egg, Cheese, Jalapeno Relish, and Thai Sauce. Then choose Bacon or Sausage.  Oh yeah, of course it comes wrapped in a cake donut!  Sounds amazing!   Doughnuts Around the World This is not a phenomenon found only in the USA.  Check out Floresta Nature Doughnuts’ offerings in Tokyo. You can get doughnuts meticulously designed to look like cute animals. Take a look at this photo of a doughnut made in the shape of a mother and baby seal (photo found on their website).   If you would like to be smothered in cute then check out their menu. Maybe you don't care about doughnut trends. Do you want to see the largest doughnut mosaic in the world? That record was set in Ukraine.  Check out the Guinness World Record here. Perhaps we should be lobbying to have an International Doughnut/Donut Day instead?

Feb.
21

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FDA required calorie information on restaurant menus are changing. By May 7, 2018, any restaurant-type establishment with 20 or more locations must post the calorie information for all menu items.  As customers become accustomed to seeing this information at larger chains, they will begin to expect this same information from smaller, local eateries. If you have this information ready you will not have to tell your customers, “We are not required to tell you the calories” when they ask you for them. Resources for adding calorie information to your menu: A good summary of the rules can be found on the FDA website (here). The real headache comes when you start to break down each recipe and attempt to establish the total caloric content of one serving.  It will be hard enough to calculate the calories in one bagel, let alone a bagel sandwich with cheese and side of tomato slices or chips! A good place to begin would be with the supplier of your ingredients.  They will have a Nutrition Statement for each ingredient you order. If you would like to see what a Nutrition Statement looks like, send us an email  customerservice@singingdogvanilla.com. Erin will send you our nutrition statement for Pure Vanilla Extract. At the top of the statement will be the calorie count for 100 grams of that ingredient. Use this information to determine the number of calories you are adding from each ingredient. Add the total for all the ingredients then divide by the number of servings you get from each batch. This will result in the number of calories per serving. If the total calories from a batch of cinnamon rolls is 3600, and one batch makes 12 cinnamon rolls, then each cinnamon roll is approximately 300 Calories. It will be easier if you measure your recipes by metric weight.  You can convert your standard measurements to metric using online calculators such as https://www.metric-conversions.org/weight/ounces-to-grams.htm For ingredients such as Vanilla Extract or salt, which are usually used in amounts smaller than 100 grams at a time, some simple math with tell you how many calories per recipe.  100 grams of Ground Vanilla Beans is 385 calories. If your recipe only calls for 2 grams of ground vanilla then the calories from the ground vanilla portion of the batch is 7.70 calories. Try web-based calorie calculators. You can also try using some web-based calorie calculators such as this one from the USDA https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/myrecipe.aspx . You can select your ingredient type and quantity from a drop-down menu. This should give you a pretty close estimate of the calorie count for recipes that use standard ingredients. For your creations that include less common ingredients you will need to get your supplier to provide you with the calorie count.  Please feel free to give us a call (888-343-0002) if we can help you with calorie information related to any vanilla product.  Even if you are not a customer of ours we can help you with the numbers.

Jun.
09

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What is Vanilla Powder? The popular definition of Vanilla Powder has evolved since our company started. When we first entered the vanilla business, in 2004, Vanilla Powder was a vanilla flavored sugar or dextrose. This was used for sprinkling on coffee or as a dusting for pastries.  Often the vanilla flavor itself did not come from real vanilla. Some vanilla powders on the market today do have flavor that is derived from real vanilla, but are using another, non-vanilla base, or bulking agent. Searching the term “vanilla powder” on Google I found quite an array of different products. The following combinations are all listed as Vanilla Powder but are all different products.  You can see there is no uniformity in the definitions of "vanilla powder". Vanilla extract sprayed onto silicon dioxide base. Vanilla extract sprayed onto a dextrose base. Vanilla extract with Evaporated Cane Juice and Silicon Cellulose. 100% ground vanilla beans. Real Vanilla Powder is Brown Real vanilla is brown, not white or cream colored.  The first 3 blends listed above are white in color.  The fourth one will be dark brown.  If it is important that your coffee cream or cake frosting is white, while also vanilla flavored, then you may wish to use a “powder” that is blended with dextrose or silicon. When shopping for Vanilla Powder keep in mind that what you call vanilla powder may be different from what the vanilla company thinks is vanilla powder.   Shameless plug: Our Ground Vanilla Powder is simply real vanilla beans ground up into a fine powder.  For the retail consumer, we have a Vanilla Bean Grinder. This has chopped up vanilla beans in a jar with a grinder top that allows you to freshly grind the vanilla beans into your dessert, pastry, smoothie, yogurt, etc.

Apr.
28

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Should you Advertise? A few days ago I was one of the guest lecturers at the World Trade Day and National Small Business Export Summit. It was held in Spokane, Washington this year. During a question and answer period I casually revealed that at Singing Dog Vanilla we do not have an advertising budget.  After the talk, enough of the audience cornered me to ask more on this subject that I thought perhaps some of you who are thinking of starting a company in the Natural Products world may be interested as well. We Choose to Exceed Your Expectations This doesn't mean that advertising is bad. There are many resources to help you make a decision about what is best for your company. It is just our opinion that advertising is not the correct path for reaching our new fans. Yes, we could pay to get in magazines or to show up on a billboard in your town. But why not just invest our resources into making sure that our vanilla products and customer service exceed your expectations and let our fans spread the word for us? It forces us to strive to make our customers so satisfied with the entire experience of finding and using our vanilla that they feel compelled to tell others for us. New Product Our newest product is our Vanilla Tangerine Lip Balm. So far this is proving to be our most popular lip balm flavor. If it isn’t the best we can do then we shouldn’t be offering it.  If it shows up on your Instagram feed because your friend shared it and said, “you gotta try this!” then we know it deserves to remain in our line-up of vanilla products. My proudest moment was when someone recommended Singing Dog Vanilla to me without knowing that I am one of the founders.

Apr.
01

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Are you just starting a company in the natural products industry? Are you still pretty small and considering whether to exhibit at a trade show or not? In this post we will share with you our philosophy on trade shows here at Singing Dog Vanilla. There are many trade shows in our industry. The biggies in the USA are Natural Products Expo East and West, but there are many of them out there. Any first-time attendee to one of these trade shows would be astounded at the seemingly unending rows of booths representing the organic and natural products industry (For the most part “natural products” at these trade shows means food, herbal supplements, and skin care). I have been either attending or exhibiting at these shows since 1999.  What amazes me are the number of people I see who launch their company at a show and then are never heard from again. Many of the owners of these companies will put tremendous resources into “launching” their company at the show. They really want to introduce their product line with a big impact and are hoping to receive their first orders at the trade show. One year we were next to a company that was launching a bottled water company based in Provo, Utah. Their main mission in business was to sell only to stores within a hundred miles radius of their home town. They spent about $6K on just the booth space to go to Anaheim, California to launch a company that won’t even sell its products to 99.8% of the people there! We never saw them again and even their website is no longer up. I bet they didn’t make it. It is our opinion that using a trade show as the platform for a company launch is not the best path. The cost of renting the booth space and staffing the booth, along with airfare, shipping, hotels, samples, etc. ends up being around $15,000.00 per show for us. If you are a startup company trying to watch every dollar that is spent then $15K is a lot of money. You may find that the return on the money might not be what you would hope. According to Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine there are about 30,000 natural and health supplement grocery stores in the USA. Only a small percentage of these send buyers to the big trade shows. Many of the people that visit your booth may not be buyers at all. A good portion of the people that attend natural products trade shows are herbalist, nutritionists, naturopaths, and other non-retail industry service providers. They may end up being a great end consumer of your product, but they are not going to be buying pallet loads of it. It has been our experience that these shows are really great for connecting with the customers we already have. With Singing Dog Vanilla, we did not exhibit at these shows until we first had a level of sales that could support the expense. When we had a solid base of retail stores that carried our products and wanted to meet us in person, then we began exhibiting. The first time we had a Singing Dog Vanilla booth was in our 6th year of business. Rather than launch at a trade show, here is what I advise new companies to spend the $15,000 on: Design a nice digital file with all of your products listed. Get on the phone every morning and call at least 40 retail buyers and ask them if you can e-mail them an introduction to your product line. Call them back a few days later and ask for the order. Support that sale with in-store product demos and a good social media campaign. Basically, you should use the $15K to keep your company (and yourself!) alive while you are busy getting your first orders. Exhibit at a trade show when you have the funds to go without damaging the viability of your company. Then you can meet in person and give a big “thank you” to all of the buyers that are stocking your products. If your resources are limited and you are undecided how best to use these resources, I think you should spend that money selling your product to one buyer at a time. If you are in a position where you MUST get orders at the show or your business will fail, then you shouldn’t go. Calling individual buyers is a much safer bet.

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