The most common flavor we can get and enjoy is probably vanilla.
Almost all desserts contain vanilla, a common component in many culinary and baking preparations.
Now, while you might find vanilla in most grocery stores, the actual beans aren’t always there, and when they are, they are pricey.
So why are vanilla beans so expensive?
First off, they are centralized and utilize a labor-intensive and drawn-out growing method, so vanilla beans are pricey.
Additionally, their costs are often quite high due to a shortage of these pure extracts and a huge demand for them.
According to Jessica Formicola, proprietor of savory experiments, the plant’s sheer difficulty in cultivation is another significant factor in the price of vanilla.
“Orchids are delicate plants that are challenging to maintain.
The expert continues that during a brief flowering time; orchid blooms are hand-pollinated”.
It takes skill to complete the hand-pollination technique because it is challenging.
Farmers involved in vanilla cultivation for many generations typically carry out this task.
In addition, most of the finicky plant used to make vanilla extract is produced in Madagascar, where several storms have decimated crops during the past five years.
Why Is A Vanilla Bean So Expensive?
The procedure takes an entire year from start to finish (from growing to export) because the crop needs to be dried and cured.
According to “Vanilla Queen” Patricia Rain, a culinary historian and proprietor of The Vanilla Company, “Vanilla is the most labor-intensive crop in the world, which is why it’s only second in price to saffron.”
However, while the price of the beans is high, some vanilla flavoring is not because it is mostly artificial.
So even if vanilla tastes are inexpensive, getting the beans, which might be expensive, will give you the greatest results. The main causes of vanilla beans’ high prices are listed below.
- Centralization of farming
Madagascar produces the majority of the vanilla beans consumed worldwide—about 80%. Therefore, for 70% of the inhabitants of Madagascar, this spice represents a substantial source of income.
As vanilla is only produced in a small region near Madagascar, any problems with the economy, environment or exports there will significantly impact the majority of the global supply, making it extremely unstable without a backup.
If something as widely accessible as table salt becomes unavailable in one region or nation, it is simple and quick to find it elsewhere.
However, if Madagascar’s spice production is stopped, it will be difficult to find it elsewhere.
2. High demand for beans
When fake vanilla became more popular in the 1980s, growers had to limit their output since they were not getting enough profit.
However, about 2011, when more significant businesses joined the “all-natural” movement, its appeal grew.
It has taken vanilla producers some time to ramp up production and re-enter the market.
In addition, not everyone was eager to start over from scratch.
3. Labor-intensive farming
Growing vanilla requires loads of manual labor.
From planting the orchids to harvesting the beans, the growing process is done by hand.
Afterward, the vines are planted, harvested, and treated with hands.
Such farming requires a lot of knowledge and work, which means the farmers have to charge a premium.
4. Climate change
The island of Madagascar has recently been the target of numerous hurricanes that have destroyed thousands of plants.
Additionally, hurricanes are becoming stronger, more frequent, and devastating on the island due to climate change.
It takes new plants two to three years to start producing beans after a violent storm wipes out crops.
Because farmers cannot ensure that other storms won’t inflict damage during that time, they are taking a significant risk.
Further price hikes could result from a decline in supply due to such climate difficulties.
5. Unstable supply and demand
Farmers may find it difficult to quickly fulfill demand because vanilla beans are difficult to grow.
Additionally, growers frequently lack the time and resources necessary to meet an unexpected market demand increase.
For example, artificial vanilla flavoring became more affordable in the 1980s and the market for vanilla beans decreased as a result.
But in 2011, the growing popularity of all-natural foods made it challenging for farmers to supply the increased demand.
6. Long procedure
Each orchid blooms just on one day of the year, and to yield beans; it needs to be manually pollinated.
After harvest, the beans undergo a lengthy curing process.
In general, the production process lasts three to four years.
Farmers cannot react quickly to shifts in market demand due to this drawn-out procedure.
Price changes are inevitable when supply and demand are in a state of flux.
Why Has Pure Vanilla Extract Gotten So Expensive?
If you are regularly baking, you might wonder why pure vanilla extract has become so expensive.
Vanilla is not a cheap commodity to buy; in terms of price, it is only second to saffron.
Several variables, including climate change, complication pollination, theft, and shipping costs, contribute to its high price.
In addition, because 80% of the vanilla consumed worldwide originates from Madagascar, these beans are the most expensive.
The island recently endured bad weather, which led to many failed crop yields.
As a result, Madagascar vanilla beans are now over ten times more expensive than they were a few years ago.
Mexican vanilla beans don’t cost as much.
Most vanilla goods aren’t made from pure vanilla extracts, which lowers their cost.
They can therefore offer a lower price because they are simpler to create.
Nonetheless, an article from Cook’s Illustrated that compares synthetic vanilla flavorings to the real thing is frequently cited.
Their tasters agreed that real vanilla extract was preferable in raw or almost raw applications, such as puddings.
Are Vanilla Beans Still Expensive?
Recent bad weather and complications have caused vanilla beans to be still expensive.
The price of vanilla beans varies depending on the brand and origin of the beans.
Currently, vanilla is sold by manufacturers for about 62 cents per teaspoon.
Calculate the price per pound of vanilla extract, and you’ll find it’s about $300.
In contrast, the price of sterling silver is about $347 per pound.
Vanilla beans can be purchased by the pound or the kilo.
Given that vanilla is a volatile liquid, flying it from Madagascar to the United States is not simple.
To guarantee the safety of the vanilla during the flight, the plane must adhere to the strict hygienic requirements of the FDA.
After processing, vanilla beans are graded; these grades don’t make up much of the consumer market.
Your eyes, nose, and wallet are, therefore, your best allies regarding quality.
Whether it is in the form of a pod or an extract, good vanilla is never inexpensive.
Are Vanilla Beans Worth It?
If you are baking regularly, you might wonder if vanilla beans are worth it.
Vanilla beans have a distinct flavor you won’t find in artificial vanilla flavors.
Purchasing these beans might not be ideal if you’re on a tight budget.
However, these beans are worth the money if you want to experience the ultimate vanilla flavor.
Nowadays, artificial vanilla extract is more frequently used as a flavoring in foods and beverages than real vanilla extract.
Since genuine extract offers the best opportunity to experience its flavor, vanilla beans are very well-liked.
You can grow your vanilla at home, but it takes a little more work than other houseplants.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.