As a result of a bad harvest, the price of Madagascar vanilla beans has surged nearly 150 percent, signaling trouble for food manufacturers that might, in turn, affect consumers.
Charlie Thuillier, founder and managing director of ‘guilt-free’ ice-cream brand Oppo, says the vanilla extract his company purchases has increased from €35 ($50 USD) per liter in February to €76 ($109 USD) per liter, The Guardian reports.
“You can get vanilla extract all over the world but we chose Madagascar because it had the greatest depth of flavor,” 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.” The additional cost incurred by rising vanilla prices could potentially be passed onto consumers, especially for ice cream as vanilla is the most expensive ingredient in the production process.
Rising prices often leads to a lower quality product and criminal concerns for farmers, according to market experts. Jara Zicha, analyst at data company Mintec, says, “There are reports that vanilla farmers in Madagascar harvested their 2015 crop prematurely, in fear of losing their production to thieves. This, coupled with inadequate drying in order to increase profits from their crop has led to lower quality vanilla.”
The 2016 crop is promising, however any price decreases associated with a better harvest won’t be seen until later this year.