The move sees the company strengthen its position as worldwide leader of diphenols, compounds used to produce a range o products including as vanillin and ethyl vanillin, veratrol, mono-methyl ethers of hydroquinone used in the flavour and fragrance markets. "With this new facility, Rhodia is reinforcing its production capacities on the upstream "diphenol product tree" as well as its worldwide positioning and "historic" presence in China," said the company in a statement. Synthetic vanillin is a cost effective alternative to natural vanilla. Global demand currently hovers around 16,000 tons a year, but supply is short creating a situation whereby prices have been increased repeatedly. By comparison, total world demand for natural vanilla is about 40 metric tons. The reason for this is that synthetic vanillin costs one-hundredth of the price of the natural product. It not only substitutes for vanilla, but also supplements adulterated vanilla extracts. The company has said it will use its hydroxylation technology at its new facility in Zhenjiang, upstream to vanillin production, making it possible to synthesise this flavouring agent via the "green guaiacol" route (non chlorinated guaiacol made from catechol), said to be the most eco-friendly production process available and said to guarantee a high degree of purity in the grades of end products. The opening of the Zhenjiang facility is in keeping with the company's focus on providing local service, providing the diphenol compounds for Asia and complementing the company's production facilities in St Fons, France and Baton Rouge, USA.