Why Is Vanilla So Expensive? Learn The Truth!

Vanilla is the most popular and second most expensive spice in the world after saffron. Expensive as it is, its prices continue to grow steadily every year – 1 kg of high-quality vanilla can go up as much as $700, making it even more expensive than silver! but why has the price of vanilla skyrocketed and what is the prediction for its future?

Why is vanilla so expensive? A huge demand, a low supply, and harsh growing conditions make vanilla so expensive. Vanilla is so expensive as it is difficult and time-consuming to grow. 80% of all vanilla comes from Madagascar that often has bad weather (droughts, heatwaves, storms, rising sea levels), so vanilla crops are poor.

Vanilla prices continue to grow every year, and the demand far exceeds the supply. Since 80% of vanilla comes from Madagascar affected by storms and heatwaves, there is a big shortage of vanilla beans. Since vanilla price is so high, many switch to vanilla imitation.

See also: 15 Best Vanilla Substitutes For Baking You Must Try Today

Why Is Vanilla So Expensive? Learn These 5 Reasons!

According to statistics, the world consumes about 2000 tons of natural vanilla per year. The aromatic spice business generates incredible income. Vanilla is native to South and Central America and the Caribbean, however, there were numerous unsuccessful attempts to grow vanilla in Europe and Asia. 80% of vanilla comes from Madagascar, and the tiny amount is grown in Comoros, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Uganda.

How much does vanilla cost? As of now, vanilla costs $23-$27 for an eight-ounce bottle (47 teaspoons) or $300-$600 per kg (depending on the supply), while an eight-ounce bottle of imitation vanilla is only $7. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron that costs $7-$11 per gram or $700-$1100 per kg. 

Is vanilla more expensive than gold? Even though vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron and can cost up to $600 per kg or $0.60 per g, it is not more expensive than gold (as of now, 1 g of gold costs $57.99). It is almost as expensive as silver which costs $0.76 per gram. 

Here are the reasons why vanilla has become so expensive:

  • Unfavorable weather conditions on Madagascar
  • Laborious and lengthy growing process
  • Time-consuming and long manual vanilla beans processing
  • A high demand
  • People tend to opt for a healthy lifestyle and choose organic foods

Let’s dive into the real truth of why pure vanilla is so expensive and predict the future of its market.

Bad Weather

Vanilla is very weather sensitive. Ideally, vanilla orchids need high humidity and are grown in an area where nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 55°F. During the day, vanilla needs 59–86°F. This plant grows best in a hot, humid climate from sea level to an elevation of 1,500 m, that is why Madagascar is just a perfect place for cultivating vanilla.

However, recently Madagascar has been affected by horrible weather conditions like droughts, heatwaves, storms, which led to sea levels rising and temperature changing.

These changes lead to poor vanilla crop yield and a global supply shortage. In 2017 cyclone Enawo in Madagascar raised vanilla prices from $400 per kg in 2016 to $600 per kg in 2021. The 2017 cyclone destroyed not only the vanilla but also the surrounding trees, which were necessary to balance out the sunlight. Vanilla does not grow well under direct sunlight, so a lot of beans were affected by too much sun.

Difficult and Time-Consuming Vanilla Growing Process

Another big reason why the vanilla price is so high is that vanilla is extremely difficult to grow and harvest. Orchid flowers that produce vanilla beans need to be pollinated by hand and the process of flowering is very short. Hand pollination is very laborious and requires a lot of time. Hand pollination takes place just once a year since orchids flower once a year.

Interestingly, Madagascar workers do not make much money looking after vanilla – most of them will get only $5 per day. After vanilla beans were hand-pollinated and harvested, they need to be cured and dried. This process usually lasts for 11-12 months – vanilla needs to be air-dried and kept away from moisture and direct sunlight.

See also: What Does Vanilla Extract Taste Like? Check Out Vanilla Extract Tasting Notes!

The process of growing vanilla in Madagascar also leads to risky situations and criminal behavior. Because of vanilla, people are destroying forests and killing each other. In one of the villages, the vanilla-stealing raiders even warned local residents about the raids in advance – they slipped notes with demands under the door.

After some time, the farmers got tired of the threats, and the crowd surrounded the gangsters, dragged them to the square, and staged a massacre. Most of Madagascar’s major vanilla-growing regions have reported similar thefts and dozens of murders. Some communities asked for protection from the police, while others took the situation under their own control.

High Demand

As more and more people are switching to a healthy lifestyle, the demand for natural foods far exceeds the supply. Vanilla has a lot of health benefits and excellent aromatic properties that add a pleasant, cozy, candy-sweet scent to muffins, cakes, pancakes, ice cream, hot and cold beverages, yogurts, and smoothies.

Vanilla contains a lot of useful substances, including tannins and mucous, as well as glucovanillin, glycoside, vanillin polyphenol, which is a powerful antioxidant, and essential oils. It also contains minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron) and B vitamins: thiamine, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, which are necessary for the normal synthesis of enzymes in the body and stabilization of the nervous system.

Why Is Vanilla So Expensive? The Bottom Line

Is it worth it to buy real vanilla extract? Real vanilla extract is definitely worth the price since it enhances all the flavors in the recipe, adds a pleasant candy sweet, creamy, warm, comforting, and also slightly exotic scent to desserts, yogurts, hot beverages, pancakes, waffles, fruits, smoothies, and even savory dishes!

Vanilla promotes the production of serotonin, which improves our mood and eliminates anxiety. This spice is considered one of the strongest aphrodisiacs. Vanilla essential oils help to awaken sexual energy, which is why they are often used in baths and for aroma lamps. Another important advantage of vanilla is that it relieves sugar cravings, increases metabolism, and promotes quicker weight loss.

It is believed that vanilla can relieve fever, sleep disorders, rheumatism, anemia, flatulence, some diseases of the nervous system, alleviate mental disorders, relieve pain, and improve overall health. Vanilla is used to treat depression, stress, it also normalizes the acidity in the stomach and blood sugar levels as well as neutralizes the harmful effects of alcohol on the body. Vanilla is an incredibly expensive spice. In the 14th century, the Aztecs used its beans as money and were buying food, clothing, and even jewelry with them. Even though vanilla is often confused with vanillin, synthetic flavoring does not even have a share of the beneficial properties that vanilla has.

Vanilla is added to cookies, pastries, cakes, rolls, muffins, sweet pies, Easter cakes, and other pastries. It is also often used in the preparation of fruit salads, desserts, wine, liqueurs, jams, puddings, creams, jellies, sweets, and sweet sauces. Vanilla goes well with dairy products such as yogurts, curd casseroles, and other dishes.

Will the price of vanilla go down? For the last two years, vanilla prices were going up steadily due to the poor crop yields after droughts and heat waves in Madagascar. Right now, vanilla beans come at $500-$600 per kg, but the price can go down if the fall pollination leads to a bigger crop.

Natural vanilla prices are not likely to change significantly in the near future, and experts do not predict a sharp increase. The cost may decline slightly due to a good harvest and Indonesia’s desire to occupy a large niche in the global trade in natural vanilla. The demand for natural flavoring will remain at a high level, as the existing proposals cannot fully satisfy the demands of food manufacturers.

Why Is Vanilla So Expensive? FAQ

Why is vanilla extract so expensive? Vanilla extract is so expensive as the demand far exceeds the supply. Weather-sensitive vanilla is laborious to grow as it needs to be handpicked and dried.  Recent vanilla crops have been poor due to unfavorable weather conditions (drought, heat waves) in Madagascar, where 80% of vanilla comes from. 

How much does pure vanilla cost? Currently, pure vanilla extract costs $23-$27 for an eight-ounce bottle (47 teaspoons) or $0.57 per teaspoon. The price can go up to $50 per 8 ounces or 240 ml as Madagascar, where 80% of vanilla is produced, is suffering from droughts, rising sea levels, and heat waves.

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