Britain’s favourite ice cream flavour could be about to get more expensive as vanilla prices soar.
Over the last two years, the ingredient has become more expensive than silver, selling for around £440 per kilo.
The rise has sent a chill down the spine of British ice cream makers and manufactuerers. And, as summer finally arrives, it could only get worse.
One UK producer is Snugbury’s Ice Cream in Nantwich, Cheshire. The family farm is run by three sisters and about a third of their 40 flavours contain vanilla and or vanilla pods.
"It has really gone up, so last year we decided to buy it forward by a year’s-worth," Cleo Sadler, from Snugbury’s, told the BBC .
"We had to make a decision as to whether we would absorb the costs – which we did in the end."
Some ice cream makers have stopped using vanilla altogether due to the increase in prices.
Julie Fisher, who founded Ruby Violet seven years ago, said she’s stopped buying vanilla and plans to avoid doing so "for the foreseeable future" as she can’t afford the thousands of pounds the plant extract would cost.
As well as vanilla pods themselves, ‘spent’ powder (little black specks seen in many ice creams) has also increased in price.
Vanilla, which is derived from the Vanilla orchid, is grown in tropical regions. More than 75 per cent of it is produced in Madagascar, an island off the south eastern coast of the African continent.
Last March the region was struck by a powerful cyclone and many of the plantations were damaged.
"The main reason for the high price is that there was a cyclone in Madagascar last March which damaged a lot of the plantations," said industry expert Julian Gale.
"And despite hopes that the price would have eased by now, it’s still holding on the high side because demand is so strong."
Vanilla is difficult to cultivate and is the second most expensive spice in the world – saffron is number one. The plants from which vanilla is taken are delicate.
As well as Madagascar, vanilla is also grown Papua New Guinea, India, and Uganda. It’s exported around the world and is huge in the ice cream industry.
Synthetic vanilla flavouring – known as vanillin – is used by some manufacturers but it is less potent and scented than its natural counterpart.
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