With the cost of vanilla hitting new heights, Saskatoon businesses are starting to turn to different forms of the ingredient to keep prices reasonable.
“We actually use vanilla in probably 90 per cent of our products,” Little Bird Patisserie and Cafe owner Kim Butcher said.
“When we opened four years ago, we were paying less than $200 a pound for vanilla beans and that equated to about $1.50 to $2 per bean, which was feasible for us at that point and now the quotes we’re getting in are upwards of $700.”
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Madagascar produces upwards of 80 per cent of the world’s vanilla. While the price of the ingredient has been on the rise for the past five years, Cyclone Enawo hit the island nation in March 2017, destroying a lot of the crop and causing the costs to skyrocket.
“As the vanilla bean prices started really rising, in order to keep our products at a price that was reasonable for our customers we had to eliminate using the vanilla beans and switch to that extract or the vanilla bean paste.”
This is the highest the price has ever been, according to vanilla importer and director of Aust & Hachmann David van der Walde.
“The retail and food service market, and the food service market is the hotels, the restaurants, the speciality stores, the small bakers, the artisanal people, this market has been decimated by these prices.”
However, as with all things, what goes up must come down.
“The experienced people in this businesses are just waiting for the inevitable crash, which will come, but probably not this year,” van der Walde said.
While the importer might be hopeful, the vanilla bean crop is very labour intensive. It takes over three years for a crop to mature and another six months after the beans are picked for the product to be ready for export.
“It really comes down to the basic principles of supply and demand, however with vanilla it’s a little different than other commodities,” van der Walde said.