Vanilla ice cream is the Old Faithful of the frozen treat world. Not only is it America’s favorite flavor, but it’s an essential part of floats, splits, Blizzards, and apple pie a la mode. So why then, is this beloved summer scoop starting to disappear from shop menus?
Reuters reported, a March 2018 cyclone in Madagascar, the country that harvests 80 percent of the world’s vanilla, has damaged plantations. About 30 percent of the crop was estimated to be lost, but the true extent of the damage won’t be known until harvest time in July.
A shortage of the popular spice led to a crippling prices last year, and with the new crop damage, those prices are estimated to continue this summer. Costs of vanilla pods have risen by up to 500 percent.
The valuable commodity sold for around $20 a kg (about 2 pounds) in 2010, but now goes for around $500 a kg — That’s more expensive than silver.
Taking a toll
Everyone from coffee and pastry shops to ice cream stands and even Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Starbucks will feel the effects.
For smaller businesses, absorbing the cost is a challenge.
Julie Fisher, founder of London-based ice cream brand Ruby Violet, said vanilla is no longer being offered in her shop.
“We have had this problem for the last year and had to take vanilla off the menu due to rocketing of prices,” she told The Telegraph. “A lot of people still come in and ask for vanilla and when I tell them we don’t have it anymore they think it must be a joke. They can’t believe it.”
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron because it is difficult to cultivate. It can take up to five years to get from the ground into the hands of the consumer.
Other countries including Mexico, Tahiti, Papaua New Guinea, India and Uganda also export vanilla pods.
As a cost cutting measure, many businesses may switch their recipes to vanilla flavoring, as opposed to real vanilla. So unless you’re ready to shell out the big bucks, it might be time to consider a new favorite flavor.
(h/t Good Housekeeping)