The warm, sweet scent of vanilla is calming and comforting. The flavor is associated with our favorite baked goods or cold treats. The main constituent, vanillin, can support wellbeing from easing anxiety and depression to enhancing libido. It is an anti-inflammatory, is antibacterial and has antioxidant benefits.
Here at Zoe Organics, we have grown very fond of the rich vanilla bourbon CO2 we have been using in our products; most notably, Everything Balm and Dr. Shannon's Skin Balm. In fact, we're pretty attached. It's hard to think of these products without it, but one of the really tough realities about working with high quality, natural and organic raw ingredients is the fact that supplies are determined by a bunch of factors out of our control.
Vanilla crops are some of the most labor-intensive on earth. To truly appreciate this beautiful ingredient, one must understand what it takes to cultivate it.
Vanilla beans are seeds from orchids. Today, the primary source of vanilla is Madagascar, where natural pollinators don't exist, so each flower must be fertilized by hand. Once harvested, the beans have to be soaked, wrapped, then the beans sweat and finally, are dried. A process that takes months.
Historically, prices of vanilla were so low that many farmers gave up and abandoned their farms because it wasn't worth the low compensation they made for all the effort. But in recent years, as the demand increased, this all changed. Today prices have soared to records highs and supplies have been depleted.
There are several factors contributing to a world-wide vanilla shortage:
- The rise in demand for natural ingredients has led food manufacturers, including giants Nestle and Hershey's, to swap out artificial vanilla for the real deal.
- In March, 2017, the strongest cyclone Madagascar had seen in more than a decade, hit, resulting in damage to vanilla crops.
- Even though farmers are rebuilding plantations as quickly as they can, it takes 4-5 years for new orchids to begin producing seeds.
It will be a tough market for vanilla for the next couple of years. While it is expected to recover, we will be left without our precious vanilla in the meantime.
A few months ago, we were notified by our suppliers of the shortage and that they wouldn't be able to source it for an indeterminate amount of time. While, we have looked at alternatives, we are not willing to substitute with an inferior product. We have made some sample batches of Everything Balm and Dr. Shannon's Skin Balm without the vanilla and while we miss the warm scent of vanilla bourbon, we have been pleased by some of the other natural scents that shine through. Everything Balm still has a warm subtle lavender scent with the coconut oil coming through. Dr. Shannon's Skin Balm has a lovely sweet orange scent with subtle hints of cocoa from the cocoa butter. The amount of vanilla used in these formulas was so small, that outside of the aroma benefits, you won't notice a difference. We plan to begin shipping the vanilla-free versions in the coming weeks.
We'll keep you updated on the availability of vanilla, and in the meantime, enjoy these favorites – and let us know if you even prefer the vanilla-free versions!