Why Is Vanilla Bean So Expensive? (6 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Vanilla is a popular flavor around the world for various foods, such as ice cream, cakes, and more. While vanilla is a familiar flavor to find in most affordable food, the actual vanilla bean that vanilla comes from is not.

If you have tried to buy vanilla beans, you may be wondering why vanilla beans are so expensive. I checked out the facts, and here is what I found!

Why Is Vanilla Bean So Expensive?

Vanilla beans are expensive because vanilla beans are primarily grown in Madagascar, which frequently experiences bad weather that ruins vanilla harvests. Moreover, the vanilla plant is not easy to grow and is susceptible to theft, making it difficult for farmers to come up with enough vanilla beans to meet the global demand.

Do you want to find out more interesting facts about vanilla beans and what contributes to vanilla beans’ costs? Keep reading!

1. Failed Crop Yield

A primary reason vanilla beans are expensive is that the crop yields for vanilla beans have been failing, meaning fewer vanilla beans are available worldwide.

Also, when there is a shortage of a product, that means the supply will not meet the demand. Therefore, the product price, such as vanilla beans, will likely spike.

For instance, 80% of vanilla beans used around the world are grown in Madagascar. Unfortunately, Madagascar has been experiencing bad weather, ruining vanilla bean crops.

For example, Madagascar has experienced frequent cyclones along with other forms of bad weather.

That said, if one bad cyclone ruined all the vanilla crops, it would take at least two to four years for new vanilla beans to grow.

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Moreover, how much the vanilla bean will cost after failed crop yields depend on how many vanilla beans could be harvested.

In some cases, vanilla beans can easily go for $600 per kilogram, making vanilla beans significantly more expensive than in past years.

Additionally, it is important to note that vanilla beans are susceptible to theft before the farmers can harvest them.

Naturally, this leaves farmers with no choice but to increase the price of their vanilla beans.

2. Vanilla Takes A While To Grow

Another good reason vanilla beans are expensive is that the vanilla plant is difficult to grow.

Typically, it takes at least two to four years for vanilla vines to mature, which is when the vanilla beans can be harvested.

Then, once the vanilla flowers have been pollinated, the vanilla pods that house vanilla beans have to cure for a few months after harvesting.

Therefore, getting a single vanilla bean can take a lot of time, causing a spike in the vanilla beans’ price.

3. Pollination Is Difficult

A vanilla plant’s flower will only bloom for one day each year. That said, these vanilla flowers need to be pollinated once they bloom for the flowers to make vanilla beans.

So, while Madagascar is the main place where vanilla beans are grown, farmers have to pollinate each vanilla flower by hand.

Moreover, this makes it a tedious process that must be done within the day to ensure a harvest. Still, some other countries like Mexico have birds and bugs that can pollinate flowers.

However, deforestation has been a growing problem in Mexico, meaning there is not enough wildlife to pollinate vanilla flowers naturally.

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Therefore, a vanilla bean’s price will increase because of the labor costs. Additionally, most farms that raise vanilla plants will need to hire workers to pollinate each vanilla flower manually.

4. Unstable Supply And Demand

4. Unstable Supply And Demand

Since vanilla beans are difficult to grow, it can be challenging for farmers to suddenly meet the public’s demands.

Also, farmers often do not have enough time or resources to reach a market’s sudden demand for vanilla beans.

For instance, vanilla beans fell out of fashion in the 1980s since artificial vanilla flavoring was cheaper, so the demand for vanilla beans was low.

However, all-natural ingredients became trendy in 2011, making it hard for farmers to meet the new demand.

5. Farming Centralization

As mentioned earlier, roughly 80% of the world’s vanilla beans come from Madagascar.

While growing this spice has become the livelihood of 70% of the population in Madagascar, there is only a small area where vanilla is grown.

So, if there are any difficulties with export, climate, or the economy, the price of vanilla beans will rise to meet these new costs.

For example, fuel costs can make vanilla beans much more expensive because of shipping and export costs, especially if you do not live near Madagascar.

Therefore, vanilla bean prices are highly unstable, especially since external factors can easily impact the main source of vanilla beans.

For instance, let us compare regular salt to vanilla beans.

On the one hand, salt can be harvested throughout various countries worldwide, making salt affordable since it is easy to find a new salt supply if the main supplier does not have it.

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On the other hand, if Madagascar were to stop producing vanilla beans, there would be a huge issue.

Lastly, it is difficult to find vanilla beans anywhere else, so most people would have to settle for Mexican or artificial vanilla.

Are Vanilla Beans Worth The Money?

Vanilla beans are worth your money if you want to taste an authentic vanilla flavor in your recipes.

Further, artificial vanilla flavorings often have other ingredients, whereas vanilla beans only have the pure vanilla bean flavor.

Is Mexican Vanilla Expensive?

Generally, Mexican vanilla is not expensive, especially compared to vanilla beans from Madagascar.

That said, Mexican vanilla is not created from pure vanilla extract, which makes it cheaper to buy than Madagascar vanilla beans.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why pomegranates are so expensive, why scotch is so expensive, and why Panera is so expensive.

Conclusion

Vanilla beans are expensive because 80% of the world’s vanilla beans come from Madagascar.

Therefore, if Madagascar experiences bad weather or changes in the economy, the price of vanilla beans will rise.

Moreover, the process of growing vanilla beans is not easy because they take several years to mature, plus pollinating and harvesting the vanilla beans is a tedious process.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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