There was a time where one of the biggest names in pharmaceuticals, which was from right here in Kalamazoo, sold imitation vanilla, and it was only made available to employees only. Now, why is that? It seems strange to me that vanilla of all things would be sold only to people who worked for the company, which had never made a food or flavoring product before. According to a website dedicated to remembering the Upjohn company, this was the reason:

The story I heard was that Martha Parfet, wife of CEO Ted Parfet, used a lot of vanilla in her cooking but could not find a good quality source of it. Since The Upjohn Company already used large quantities of vanilla flavoring in products like Kaopectate, the materials were already in-house. It didn’t take much effort to formulate and bottle it. It was a popular product with employees because batches were made through the 1970s and 80s. It was discontinued in 1990. At some point the main ingredient changed to imitation vanilla.

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A former employee recollected buying the product back when he was employed by Upjohn:

I used to buy it at the Upjohn company On site Pharmacy in bldg 41 regularly. I really miss the camaraderie and the family feeling I experienced working there. -Ed R.

Now for people of Kalamazoo this must have been a hot commodity because it was a local product, but the only way to get your hands on some was to buy it from an employee, and apparently people thought it was really good. There are even some people who still have a bottle, although I wouldn't recommend using it.

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