We love them, and the price rises: First it was avocados, now it seems an essential ingredient for baking may be facing the same fate. Have you noticed an increase in the price of pure vanilla extract at your grocery store? There has been a big hike in the market price of vanilla: in 2015 one kilo of vanilla beans was $100; currently that kilo is a whopping $600.
As vanilla is the second most labor-intensive food in the world (after saffron), a high cost is understandable. Harvesting vanilla pods is done by hand, and the process of harvesting, picking, soaking, wrapping, and warming takes several months. This intense process and high cost have long made synthetic vanilla attractive to companies seeking vanilla flavor for their food products. Recently, as consumers have become more conscious about natural flavors, the demand for vanilla has increased with more food companies sourcing real vanilla instead of synthetic -- and increased demand means higher prices.
Adding to that is the fact that supply is limited: The number of places where vanilla grows is small. The island nation of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean is the world's largest producer, with Indonesia a close second. Plus, earlier this year Madagascar lost one third of its vanilla crop in a cyclone. This caused a temporary vanilla shortage.
There is good news: Many vanilla plantations in Madagascar have begun rebuilding and expanding since the cyclone, so prices should not remain at the current highs. It will though take a few years before any vanilla can be harvested from these new plants, so be prepared to pay more for quality vanilla until then.
This holiday baking season, will you use less vanilla in your cookies because it costs more? Somehow we don't think so.
Want to know more? Watch Thomas Joseph explain and show different varieties and forms of vanilla: