Ice cream fans, brace yourselves – we could be heading towards a shortage of everyone's favourite basic flavour this summer. Vanilla prices have been soaring, meaning the spice now costs around £400 a kilo wholesale – 30 times what it did just a few years ago, and making it even more expensive than sliver. Ice cream makers have been absorbing the price, but may have to look at raising them if the trend continues. And it appears the increase is all down to our obsession with natural ingredients. According to The Economist, most of the world's vanilla is grown in Madagascar, where the market has been on a bit of a rollercoaster. Vanilla prices went up in the 80s so food companies started making fake vanilla, which meant demand for the real stuff dropped and lots of farmers left the business.
Most of the world's vanilla is grown in Madagascar
However, health-conscious shoppers began to shun false flavourings meaning that demand went up again. But as there were less farmers producing it, the prices rocketed. It takes four years for vanilla trees to reach maturation, meaning it's not a crop that can be grown quickly. Farmers also have to deal with regular crop robberies, now the spice has become so valuable.
Cleo from small ice cream manufacturer Smugbury’s confirmed to the BBC that her company was struggling with the rising prices. "We've had to absorb the price of the vanilla costs so that everyone can continue enjoying vanilla ice cream," she said. "If the price continues to go up then we will have to do a bit of number crunching and look at where we can take that as a business."
Social media users were not happy to hear the news – particularly on a sunny bank holiday Monday. One wrote "Not vanilla, people!" and another added "Nooooooooo that's one of my basic food groups". However, those who weren't fans of the flavour couldn’t resist poking fun, with one user writing "Since vanilla ice cream is actually the worst I think we’ll be ok".
However, all hope is not lost – The Economist confirmed that more vanilla trees are expected to reach maturity next year, which could help prices settle down.