Okay, so first things first: if you’re getting vanilla ice cream when you have a choice of different flavors – please leave this website and never come back.
Listen, I don’t have a problem with vanilla – it’s tasty, it’s delicious, but c’mon, guys – live a little, yeah? There’s a reason people who practice missionary in the sack are called “vanilla” and that’s because they’re safe. Or, in more truthful terms, they’re boring. Vanilla is boring. If you’re eating Vanilla ice cream, you are boring. It’s that simple.
That said, there are plenty of people who do love a little bit of vanilla to cleanse the palate and, for those people, I am the bearer of bad news. Vanilla Ice cream is set to drop off the menus of restaurants and the shelves of grocery stores for one very concerning reason.
The best vanilla ice cream is – obviously – made with real vanilla. However, real vanilla only grows on a vanilla orchid, a flower that is mainly found in locations such as Madagascar and Réunion. Vanilla comes from the pods on the orchids, and in order for them to be produced, the plants must be pollinated by either hummingbird of a specific species of bees.
The main issue with this pollination of vanilla is that it can only happen in the space of a few days. The flowers are open for a short amount of time, meaning the turn-around for them to be hand-pollinated for mass production is a seriously tight onee. Not only this, but it’s an extremely tricky process, meaning it cannot be done cheaply.
But, while the cost of production was already expensive enough, in the last few months, the price has risen even further. A cyclone in Madagascar – the country that produces 80 percent of the world’s vanilla – has damaged many of the vanilla plantations, meaning that there is now a vanilla shortage.
Because of the shortage, the price of the spice has rocketed, with it rising up to $600 per kilo, which is higher than the price of silver.
This increase has meant that many independent retailers are now no longer stocking vanilla, despite the popularity of the flavor. While there are plenty of artificial substitutes, none of them come close to the real thing. Jamie Marsh, co-owner of UK-based brand Rookbeare Farm told Good Housekeeping: “If you want a delicious, clean product, there is no alternative. At Rookbeare, we have decided to absorb the extra cost rather than compromise the products.”
According to the BBC, while some retailers will also be swallowing the cost, plenty of places will be using the synthetic flavouring called vanillin, which “will now be more widely used across industries trying to avoid escalating costs.”
Hopefully, the Madagascan plantations can get themselves back on their feet and begin to get back to business as usual. In the meantime, take the vanilla shortage as an opportunity to explore a few more ice cream flavors.