4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde, commonly called vanillin, produces the familiar taste and smell of vanilla. For the Totonaco Indians of Mexico, vanilla was a sacred plant, used in religious ceremonies. The Aztecs, who defeated the Totonaco, used it as a flavouring in the 14th - 16th centuries, and the Spanish explorer Cortez brought both chocolate and vanilla to Europe in about 1520. Vanillin, the main component of natural vanilla, has many.
The total annual production of vanillin is very small
compared with a bulk chemical like ammonia (130 million tonnes worldwide).