Spotlight on Spice: A Vanilla Renaissance

madagascar bourbon vanilla beans wrapped for sale

The world’s favorite flavor - Vanilla - could soon disappear.

"Of the foods we eat, beverages we drink, perfumes and other products we purchase, that are flavored with vanilla…less than 2% are made with pure vanilla,” states Patricia Rain, aka The Vanilla Queen.

The other 98%?  Synthetic vanilla produced from the byproducts of wood pulp and petrochemicals.

Like other luxury commodities such as coffee and cacao (chocolate), the demand for vanilla is increasing.  But the difference is the relationship between supply and demand. As demand for coffee and cacao increases, so does supply.  The world produces 7 million tons of coffee every year, and 3 million tons of cacao.  Vanilla?  Only a tiny fraction of that - about 10 thousand tons.   Demand for vanilla is increasing, but the additional supply is immediately filled by companies producing imitation vanilla – a one dimensional flavor that lacks the rich, layered, full aroma of real vanilla beans.

painting of woman working on vanilla bean plantation in Mexico

Yes, real vanilla is more expensive.  It is the most labor-intensive agricultural product in the world.  But just as we now demand higher quality coffee, and refuse to buy inferior imitation chocolates, now is the time for the world’s favorite flavor to have its renaissance.  And what better place for a Renaissance than in the UK?

janet sawyer of littlepod vanilla company

Just over a year ago, LittlePod was born.  Janet Sawyer, the founder and managing director, created the company to not only promote the benefit of cooking with real vanilla, but also to encourage the use of real vanilla “to help the communities which rely on vanilla cultivation as their main source of income and conserve the fragile ecosystems where vanilla is grown.”

janet sawyer of littlepod UK and patricia rain or the vanilla queen of
 Janet and Patricia (The Vanilla Queen) at the first anniversary celebration of LittlePod

As is the case with most spices, vanilla is grown in tropical countries, where communities are drastically affected by even the slightest change in demand for their products.  With 98% of vanilla in use today sourced from synthetic products, these traditional farming communities may soon vanish.

responsibly sourced badge

LittlePod is a reminder that the choices we make in our cooking are not only related to taste and to our health, but also about people.  With product offerings such as Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla Pods, Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract, and the very popular Natural Vanilla Paste – all responsibly sourced – Little Pod is making it easy for all of us to make the right choice.

LittlePod vanilla products of bourbon beans, paste, and extract

All photos courtesy of The Vanilla.COMpany & LittlePod