The Surprising Reason Why Vanilla Is So Expensive

Did you know that vanilla is one of the most expensive food items in the world? It’s true! One pound of vanilla beans costs about $25,000. Just think about how many ethereal scents or delicious deserts could be made for that price!

Although vanilla’s high price point makes it a luxury item and not something accessible to all people, we can still enjoy this scent at home by adding this inexpensive spice to our own recipes.

You’ll need just two or three tablespoons of ground vanilla beans for an entire batch–and believe me when I say this flavor will blow your mind away. So give it a shot and see what it’s like to enjoy the taste that puts everything in perspective.

If you’re going to tackle a major baking project, you might as well start off with something that requires little preparation. Croissants are a perfect choice for the novice baker because there’s not much to prepare before you bake them.

The only thing you should do is make sure your croissants are frozen beforehand, otherwise the dough will melt through your hands as you roll it. To help keep the dough from melting, simply place them in a freezer bag and place it in the freezer for at least an hour.

Once they’re good and frozen, dump them onto a flat surface and flour them a bit so they don’t stick. To make them even easier to handle, wet your hands a little before you start to work with the dough. This is one of the most important tips because if your hands are too dry they’ll stick to the dough and it’ll be almost impossible to get them apart!

Now it’s time to start rolling up your croissants. You can also consider placing a little bit of almond paste inside for an added treat, but that’s totally optional! After all that hard work, you’re finally ready for the oven. These croissants really do taste great when served warm from the oven with fresh coffee, fruit jam and butter–or simply all by themselves. They’re simple yet scrumptious and delightful in every way.

If you bake regularly, you may have encountered bit of sticker shock the last time you bought a bottle of vanilla extract. There are a few reasons why we’re seeing higher prices on vanilla right now.

High Demand for Pure Vanilla Extract

More consumers are seeking out pure vanilla extracts, and that’s definitely part of it. According to the folks at Nielsen-Massey, makers of pure vanilla products, “the global vanilla industry has been volatile for some time and prices have fluctuated significantly in the past decade.”

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The demand for pure vanilla across the industry has skyrocketed, so much so that in 2015, when large food and beverage companies such as Nestle, General Mills, Hershey and Kellogg’s started removing artificial ingredients and replacing them with natural products, it triggered a price jump.

Dwindling Supplies of Vanilla Beans

In addition, Laurie Harrsen, senior director for communications and public relations for McCormick, says “there’s an unprecedented limited supply of quality vanilla beans in the marketplace, with prices escalating over 400 percent since 2014,” adding that the company won’t sacrifice quality for price.

The cyclone that hit Madagascar earlier this year—that’s where the bulk of vanilla extracts are sourced—sent prices even higher.

Vanilla Is More Expensive Than Ever

But keep in mind that vanilla has never been an inexpensive purchase—it’s second to saffron in terms of its cost.

Right now, the folks at Nielsen-Massey say vanilla is about 62 cents per teaspoon—an 8-ounce bottle retails for about $29 and contains 47 teaspoon-sized servings. They use a proprietary cold extraction process that preserves the 300 compounds in the beans and that means a more flavorful product.

Best Substitutes for Vanilla Extract

In the meantime, if you want to save some pennies and get creative with your baked goods you can investigate some of the less expensive options, such as premium vanilla flavor or imitation vanilla. Perhaps you won’t notice a difference. There’s also vanilla bean paste which is great in recipes where you want to see and taste the flecks of the bean, and vanilla bean powder, which you can be incorporated into the dry ingredients in recipes.

Nielsen-Massey says you can use their pure vanilla products interchangeably in recipes—a whole vanilla bean equals 1 T of paste equals 1 T of pure extract equals 1 T of powder.

You can also make your own extract by placing the beans in alcohol such as vodka, and purchasing beans wholesale online. Splitting the cost among friends can make it more economical—it’s typically cheaper to buy in bulk.

For more information on vanilla and its alternatives, check out this article from Nestle USA and Nielsen-Massey’s Pure Vanilla Solutions website.

Vanilla products are highly processed, toxic, and damaging to health. I don’t recommend their use in any way shape or form. Most of the products used today are made through physical or chemical treatments that destroy the raw properties of the beans. Every one is a sugar bomb to wreck havoc in your body. We should be going back to a time when you could buy vanilla beans that have been handpicked in small batches.

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What’s a Home Baker to Do

I typically try to look at these kinds of events as opportunities to explore other ways of cooking and baking. This year, I’ll stock up on other kinds of extracts—lemon, lime, almond, peppermint, coconut, and so forth—and experiment with the way I bake and cook during the holidays and after. You might find that you temporarily fall in love with another flavor profile!

Or you might just go back to vanilla once the price comes down again. There are plenty of good reasons to do so.

Why is vanilla so expensive 2021?

Alfred Lambourne, the founder of Nielsen-Massey, is facing challenges to his aging business model. The company is facing challenges to its aging business model.

Vanilla extracts and flavors are produced from whole vanilla beans by a process known as cold extraction. The beans are expensive because they must be harvested from the wild and handpicked so that their flavor content is high, said Alfred Lambourne, president of Nielsen-Massey & Co., which produces the products. “Only about 1 percent of all vanilla beans on earth are harvested for us. It’s very labor-intensive,” he said.

The island nation of Madagascar, where the vast majority of vanilla beans are grown, has been hit with a series of calamities. First, there was a coup that prevented exporting the beans in 2010, which made them costlier. In addition, severe cyclone damage to plantations in April has renewed concerns about supply and raised prices even further for the already scarce commodity.

Lambourne said he isn’t sure when conditions “will normalize,” but he believes there is an opportunity for small businesses to produce vanilla in other countries, including Ecuador and Indonesia.

Why is vanilla extract expensive?

There are several reasons for this., it’s a luxury product. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron. It has to be hand-pollinated by hand. It is used in very small amounts and is highly labor intensive to produce.

There are also supply problems: Madagascar, which produces 80 percent of the world’s supply, recently suffered giant floods that destroyed much of their vanilla crop and caused higher prices. The vanilla industry estimates that global demand has increased two percent annually this decade with “limited supplies and increased demand” leading to price hikes .

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About 75 percent of the world’s vanilla beans are grown in tropical forests on the island nation of Madagascar, but it has been hit by drought and extreme weather in recent years. Madagascar is the only producer of vanilla beans.

What is vanilla extract?

It is made from the seeds, or pod, of a tropical orchid that grows in sheltered parts of its native Central and South America. The seed pods are harvested by hand and individually hand-pollinated to ensure that a single flower produces just one seed. This process can take up to six months. Vanilla extract, or vanillin, is often mixed with food products such as baked goods for added flavor. It is also used for fragrance, as a preservative and as a natural remedy.

What is the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla flavor?

Vanilla flavor is made with synthetic or imitation vanilla. It often contains vanillin. However, it may be made with a combination of vanillin and turmeric, paprika or safflower oil. Vanilla Flavor can be used in place of extract in recipes that don’t call for much vanilla. It can also be used to make crème brûlée instead of burning sugar on top of the custard.

Why is Costco vanilla so expensive?

Costco has a deal with Island Farms and supplies them with their vanilla. They buy directly from the producers in Madagascar and do not have to pay the distribution costs. That is why they are able to pass along the savings.

How can I make my own vanilla extract?

Making homemade vanilla extract is surprisingly easy, but it’s important to choose the right kind of bottle for storing it. Use these glass bottles for your vanilla extract:

12-ounce amber glass bottles with glass dropper tops . These are available at craft stores like Michaels or Amazon . They are also sold in bulk at many grocery stores, including Walmart and Whole Foods Market .

(You can also reuse your empty glass Worcestershire sauce bottles.)

Use a finely-pointed knife to make a hole in the top of each bottle, then push the pointy tip of a glass dropper into the hole. Pour in one ounce of good-quality vanilla extract. Add a vanilla bean if you like. Fill bottle with vodka or bourbon (large bottles might work better). Seal tightly, label with date and shake well. Let it sit for 2-4 months before using, shaking occasionally.

After two months, use a spoon to scoop out what you need, then reseal and leave the remaining extract to continue aging.

While the price of vanilla is going up and down it always seems to be a consistent $20-$30/oz. There is no doubt that its high demand, large production and limited supply increase the cost over time. Its easy to see why it is so expensive. Enjoy your tasty vanilla extract while you can.

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