Why Is Vanilla Extract So Expensive? (5 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 extract is a fantastic ingredient because you can use it i5n many dishes. You can easily add vanilla extract to recipes to enhance the overall taste or become a prominent flavor.

If you want to use vanilla extract but were shocked by the price, you may be wondering why vanilla extract is so expensive. I did some digging, and this is what I discovered!

Why Is Vanilla Extract So Expensive?

Vanilla extract is expensive if you get an authentic kind, which is only made from vanilla beans, water, and ethyl alcohol. Vanilla beans from Madagascar are what make the vanilla extract expensive. Usually, it is challenging to grow vanilla beans, and the global demand for vanilla beans hikes up the price.

Are you curious to learn more interesting facts about what impacts vanilla extract’s price? Keep reading!

1. Real Vanilla Extract Is From Pure Vanilla Beans

The most authentic vanilla extract is made from pure vanilla beans with a few other ingredients, allowing the pure vanilla flavor to show without muddling the vanilla’s taste.

Still, some types of vanilla extract contain very little vanilla bean extract or imitation vanilla flavoring, which are very cheap.

Moreover, these variants contain a lot of other ingredients to increase the total amount of liquid. In comparison, authentic vanilla extract will have vanilla beans, ethyl alcohol, and water.

So, since there are very few ingredients in real vanilla extract, the price will go up because more vanilla beans will be used.

2. One Country Is The Main Source Of Vanilla Beans

As mentioned earlier, natural vanilla extract is made from water, ethyl alcohol, and vanilla beans.

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Unfortunately, vanilla beans are not a bountiful product since 80% of the world’s supply of vanilla beans comes from Madagascar.

Further, Madagascar is not a large country, and only a small part grows vanilla plants.

Therefore, only so many vanilla beans can grow in Madagascar, so it is hard for farmers to meet the demand for vanilla beans for vanilla extract.

However, it is worth noting that Madagascar is known for having issues with the weather.

For example, Madagascar experiences quite a few cyclones and other sudden weather changes that can damage crop yields.

As you can imagine, these weather changes can delay or even destroy the vanilla plants.

That said, when there are fewer vanilla beans available, the farmers have to increase the price, thus making vanilla extract more expensive.

3. Fuel Prices And Economy

As stated earlier, most of the world’s vanilla beans hail from Madagascar.

Therefore, most countries need to import these vanilla beans from Madagascar, which is costly because of fuel prices.

When fuel prices go up, you can expect the cost of vanilla beans and vanilla extract to rise as well.

Moreover, other gas prices like moving the vanilla beans from port to port via trucks will add to the total cost.

Additionally, the economy can dictate how much vanilla beans will cost.

For instance, if the prices of import and export taxes go up, you can expect that the vanilla beans used to make your vanilla extract will rise as well.

4. It Is Hard To Grow Vanilla Beans

4. It Is Hard To Grow Vanilla Beans

Another huge reason vanilla extract costs a lot is that vanilla beans are not easy to grow.

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Firstly, it takes a long time for vanilla plants to mature, taking around two to four years for the vanilla plant to be fully mature.

However, allowing the vanilla plants to fully mature is not the end because the vanilla flowers bloom once a year.

That said, this is the only time farmers can pollinate the flowers to ensure that vanilla pods (the vanilla beans) will grow.

So, since these flowers only bloom for one day each year, the farmers have to hire more employees to pollinate each flower by hand.

Also, since this a tedious and time-sensitive, the farmers need to be compensated for these efforts by raising the prices of the vanilla beans.

However, other countries like Mexico that grow vanilla plants have birds and bugs that can pollinate the vanilla plants.

Sadly, the deforestation ongoing in Mexico has decreased the number of birds and bugs in the area.

5. Farmers Cannot Keep Up With The Demand

While vanilla beans and legitimate vanilla extract are popular nowadays, it was not always like this.

In the 1980s, vanilla beans were not as desired because imitation vanilla was more accessible for people to buy.

However, all-natural food products experienced a sudden boom in the 2010s. Also, while this may sound like good news, the sudden demand was tough on the vanilla bean farmers.

As mentioned earlier, vanilla beans require a lot of time and effort to cultivate.

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Therefore, farmers cannot meet the public’s demands because they can only grow a certain amount of vanilla pods a year.

Why Can I Find Cheap Vanilla Extract?

If you found cheap vanilla extract in the grocery store, it is likely artificial vanilla. That said, artificial vanilla is not the same as vanilla extract, so they cost different.

Generally, imitation vanilla is made from pure vanillin diluted with ethyl alcohol and water.

Further, vanilla is extracted from wood pulp or coal tar, making it cheaper to produce imitation vanilla.

Also, another reason why you found vanilla extract is that you got Mexican vanilla extract.

Mexico can grow vanilla plants, but some variants contain other ingredients that stretch the vanilla extract, making Mexican vanilla extract cheaper than pure vanilla extract.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why vanilla bean is so expensive, why olive oil is so expensive, and why Manuka honey is so expensive.

Conclusion

Vanilla extract is expensive because vanilla beans are expensive.

Also, many factors such as fuel prices, crop growing, and more can affect the price of vanilla beans, thus increasing the price of authentic vanilla extract.

Still, some people confuse vanilla extract with imitation vanilla, a synthetic vanilla flavoring. Remember, real vanilla extract is only made from vanilla beans, ethyl alcohol, and water.

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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