Vanilla Prices On The Rise in 2016

The price of Madagascan vanilla surged by nearly 150% last year…Now food industry executives are reporting a fresh rise in prices as supply tightens.

Charlie Thuillier, the founder and managing director of the ice-cream brand Oppo, said the cost of the vanilla extract his company buys has spiked.

“The price has doubled in the last month. We were paying €35 a litre in February but now it’s €76,” he said.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, after saffron, a result of its long and labour-intensive cultivation.

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Part of the orchid family, vanilla beans are hand-pollinated on family farms. Each flower opens for only one part of one day during the season – if it is not pollinated on that day, no pod is produced.

Once picked, the curing process, which involves drying the beans in the sun by day and allowing them to sweat in a box at night, takes three to six months.

Soaring prices will hurt companies that use the ingredient in everything from soft drinks to cakes and perfume. But the pain will be felt most acutely by ice-cream makers, as it is the most expensive ingredient in the production process and some will be forced to pass on the increased cost to consumers.

Oppo, which counts the tennis player Andy Murray among its investors, buys extract to flavour its “Madagascan vanilla with a hint of baobab” ice-cream.

“You can get vanilla extract all over the world but we chose Madagascar because it had the greatest depth of flavour,” says Thuillier. “Managing the price increase is a bit of a challenge for us but we haven’t changed supplier. If you are doing battle with giants like Unilever you need a product that’s unbelievable. We will sell more.”

Dave Bishop, the production manager at New Forest Ice Cream, said its vanilla costs have risen by 18.5%. But, he said, there is no option but to pay up: “Vanilla is every ice-cream company’s biggest-selling product. You can bring out a niche flavour but vanilla will still be top. You’ve just got to take the hit on it because customers would notice the difference.”

​From The Guardian​