Sky-high vanilla prices leave Norfolk ice cream makers cold
PUBLISHED: 14:25 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:36 10 May 2018
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Norfolk ice cream makers say they have been licked by rising ingredient prices for a classic flavour – but that they will swallow the extra costs for their customers.
Successive poor vanilla bean crops from the world’s largest producer, Madagascar, have sent prices of the sweet ingredient sky-rocketing.
Chris Eyde, co-owner of Norwich-based Ronaldo’s Ices, said he has paid over the odds for vanilla for the last two seasons – with prices per kilogram 50% higher than its pre-crisis price in 2017 and 100% higher in 2018.
For a company which can use 200kg of vanilla in a season this increase has been significant, especially considering the classic flavour is its most popular – it sells 30% more scoops than Ronaldo’s’ next most popular varieties, strawberry and chocolate.
Mr Eyde said: “Last year we bought just at the right time, but we paid double the price again at the beginning of this year. It is just incredible.
“We are paying £240 per kilo for prepared beans and £100 per kilo for vanilla extract, so I am not a happy man.
“It used to be that it was one of the less expensive products to produce and it could cover the cost of some of your more extravagant flavours, but that has changed.
“This year they are cropping quite soon and it is looking better, but it takes a year to work through the chain so things are looking up for next year.”
He added: “We are continuing to make vanilla at the price advertised before the [vanilla] price increase, We are taking the hit on it. I think it is important that we do that for our customers.”
A new variety of ice cream using no vanilla or other added flavours, called ‘pure white’, is already popular in the north of England – but Mr Eyde said southern producers are starting to experiment with it to mitigate the impact of higher vanilla prices.
Simon Dann, who runs ice cream and sorbet producer Dann’s Farm, said the company had had to split the extra cost with its customers.
“A 20-litre batch of ice cream has now got to about £20 worth of vanilla in it – three years ago, it was costing us £3.50,” he said.
“The crop [of Madagascan vanilla] this season looks fairly good but it is not in the bag yet. They have not sold as much as they should have done over the past three years so I don’t think the price is going to come down as far as people think it will.”
Carl Wright, general manager at Parravani’s Ice Cream in Beccles, said sourcing vanilla had been a struggle, with the company having to wait up to eight weeks longer than normal for its supplies to arrive.
“It is a worrying time, and you don’t want to change flavours unless you absolutely have to,” he said.
“Obviously there are other suppliers, but a lot of the big companies will safeguard their vanilla stocks for their larger customers so smaller companies like ourselves using a smaller amount will be at the bottom of the ladder.
“We’ve heard from our suppliers that it [vanilla] is difficult to get hold of and when you do it is extremely expensive. For a small company it does make a big difference and it’s hard to absorb the extra cost.
“We are used to the sugar price going up and down like a yo-yo but not ingredient prices.”
He added that the family firm had been experimenting with different vanilla suppliers, and had been approached by other countries growing the crop such as France.
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