Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

A vanilla ice cream shortage is currently sweeping the UK

iStock-607481852.jpg

We’ve lived through a prosecco shortage, seen our country’s supply of croissants come under threat, and endured the Great Hummus Crisis of April 2017. And now, another of our favourite foods is at risk of (temporary) extinction.

The UK has been hit by a vanilla ice cream shortage, after a tropical cyclone caused the price of vanilla pods to soar around the world.

Several gelato shops in London are already out of stock of vanilla ice cream, according to a report by The Independent, with one store in Chiswick telling customers that the pod shortage was “unprecedented”.

The devastating Cyclone Enawo hit the island of Madagascar – where 80% of the world’s vanilla is produced – in March. At least 38 people are known to have died in the storm, with another 180 injured and some 53,000 displaced from their homes.


Read more: Rosé ice cream is the summer treat we all deserve


The storm also destroyed large swathes of Madagascar’s plantations, prompting the cost of vanilla to rise by up to 500%. The sweet spice is now out of reach for many ice cream makers in the UK.

x

Vanilla pods are extremely time-consuming to grow, harvest and produce.

In a notice to customers, Oddono’s Gelati shop in Chiswick said that they would be out of vanilla ice cream until new crops from Madagascar became available.

“[The bad weather in Madagascar] has resulted in very low quality vanilla pods being available on the market,” explain Oddono’s owners. They also blamed vanilla’s skyrocketing price on “a few large middlemen keeping the stock and forcing prices even higher”.

But it’s not just Cyclone Enawo that’s to blame for the high cost of vanilla. The expense can also be attributed to the fact that real vanilla pods are incredibly labour-intensive to produce, as well as the growing demand for natural products.


Read more: We would screw over our friends for a free slice of pizza, study says


Vanilla beans are the seeds of an orchid that grows wild in Mexico – and the plant’s native pollinators don’t exist in Madagascar. As a result, the Madagascan vanilla production process is painstaking and time-consuming.  

Jürg Brand, who owns a Madagascar-based vanilla business, tells NPR that “every flower of the orchid has to be fertilised by hand, with a little stick”.

The pod then has to be wrapped in woollen blankets for 48 hours and put in a wooden box to sweat, before being laid out in the sun for just one hour each day.


Watch: Is your favourite food shrinking post-Brexit?


For years, many major food companies didn’t bother using genuine vanilla pods in their ice cream, preferring to use a cheaper synthetic chemical compound called vanillin. But as consumers around the world increasingly turn away from artificial flavouring in food in search of more natural ingredients, the popularity of real vanilla beans has risen.

Major ice cream companies with significant financial clout are unlikely to be affected by the vanilla bean shortage for now – and they can also simply rely on vanillin as a synthetic alternative.

But if you like buying your ice cream from independent, artisan gelaterias, you might have to wait a while to get your hands on two scoops of vanilla.

Images: iStock

Related

Product-Image-Linguine(1050x700)-1.jpg

Get your first SimplyCook box for free

untranslatable foreign words for food and drink.jpg

The untranslatable foreign words all foodies need in their vocabulary

breakfast at tiffanys.jpg

Eating this breakfast is key to getting a good night’s sleep

Latest...

Unicorn cereal has arrived and breakfast will never be the same again

And here’s where you can buy it

by Susan Devaney
18 Sep 2017

These are our favourite gluten-free cakes, snacks and ingredients

From cakes to biscuits to beer and sausages

18 Sep 2017

Vegan Baileys will finally arrive in the UK this week

Here’s everything you need to know

by Megan Murray
18 Sep 2017

How to make your own sloe gin, in 3 easy steps

Just imagine the deliciousness...

by Magda Knight
15 Sep 2017

Aldi's wine advent calendar is the only Christmas countdown we need

It works out to be just £2 per bottle of vino - cheers to that!

by Megan Murray
15 Sep 2017

These beautiful doughnuts will completely blow your mind

Like glorious, edible works of art

by Charlotte Duck
14 Sep 2017

Aldi is releasing their biggest bottle of prosecco ever

All the bubbles

by Susan Devaney
14 Sep 2017

Cheese tea might just be the best thing to come out of 2017

Say hello to the drink that's taken over your Instagram feed

by Susan Devaney
14 Sep 2017

The best pub in the UK has an uplifting secret at its heart

Not just any old boozer

by Amy Swales
13 Sep 2017

Nutritious and wholesome office snack recipes to fuel your working day

From avocado crostinis to butter-glazed doughnuts

by Anna Brech
13 Sep 2017