Why Are Vanilla Beans So Expensive? (Top 5 Reasons Explained)

Vanilla is probably the most popular flavor we can find and enjoy. There’s vanilla in almost every dessert, and it’s a popular ingredient in many cooking and baking recipes. Now, while you may find vanilla in most grocery stores, you won’t find the actual beans all the time, and when you do, they are so expensive. So, you may ask:

Why are vanilla beans so expensive? First, vanilla beans are expensive since they are centralized, and farming them includes a labor-intensive and lengthy process. Also, their prices are genuinely high with a low supply and high demand for these pure extracts that give unique flavors.

Nothing beats the vanilla flavor that comes out of pure vanilla extract, and you can only get this with vanilla beans. However, suppose you’re on a budget. You may wonder if buying these beans is worth your money, especially when you can find artificial vanilla flavors that are way cheaper and more accessible.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the top five reasons vanilla beans are so expensive and other questions you may have about them. This way, you can understand the value of these beans and see if they’re worth buying, depending on your budget and preference.

Without further ado, let’s get into it! 

Why Are Vanilla Beans So ExpensivePin

Are vanilla beans expensive?

Yes, vanilla beans are expensive, and it’s due to several reasons. However, while the beans are expensive, some vanilla flavoring is not because they’re primarily artificial. So while you can enjoy vanilla flavors at a low price, you can get the best experience when you get the beans, which may be pricey.

Why are vanilla beans so expensive?

Here are five main reasons why vanilla beans are so expensive. You can read further below to understand the value of these beans and see if they’re worth buying for you.

High demand for vanilla beans

The 1980s saw the rise of artificial vanilla, which caused farmers to reduce production because it was less profitable. However, the popularity of the ‘all-natural’ trend increased around 2011 as large companies jumped on board.

However, it has taken a while for vanilla farmers to increase production and get back into the business. Furthermore, not all of them were willing to start over from the beginning.

Centralization of farming

Around 80 percent of all vanilla beans worldwide are produced in Madagascar. Therefore, this spice is a significant source of income for 70 percent of the Madagascar people.

As vanilla is grown only in a tiny area around Madagascar, any economic, climate, or export difficulties there will affect most of the world’s supply, making it highly unstable with no backup.

As long as something as widely available as table salt is no longer available in one area or country, it can easily and quickly be obtained elsewhere. 

Nevertheless, if Madagascar’s vanilla production is disrupted, it is hard to find the spice elsewhere. In addition, deforestation has significantly reduced the natural habitat of vanilla, which is native to Mexico.

Labor-intensive farming

The process of growing vanilla is highly labor-intensive. The cultivation process is entirely manual from the moment the orchids are planted until the beans are harvested. Then, hands are used in planting, harvesting, and curing the vines. Such a type of farming takes a lot of skills and effort. Thus, the farmers can compensate for it through extra costs.

Long process

Furthermore, each orchid requires hand-pollination to produce beans on one day of the year when it blooms. The beans are then cured for several months after harvest. Generally speaking, the production process takes between three and four years.

Because of this lengthy process, farmers cannot respond immediately to changes in market demand. Whenever supply and demand alternate, price fluctuations are unavoidable. 

Climate difficulties

Multiple storms have hit the island of Madagascar in recent years that have ravaged thousands of plants. In addition, climate change is intensifying hurricanes on the island and making them more frequent and severe.

After a severe storm destroys crops, the new plants will not produce beans for two to three years. This is a considerable risk for farmers because they can’t guarantee that more storms won’t cause damage during that time. In addition, such climate challenges may lead to further price increases due to decreased supply.

How much do vanilla beans cost?

The cost of vanilla beans depends on the brand you’re getting and where they came from. However, here’s an estimated price you can consider as your guide.

Generally speaking, these beans are sold in packs of ten. Or, it’s also sold either by the kilo or by the pound.

The average price of half a pound of vanilla beans is usually $80-$90. This is because it contains around 75 pieces of vanilla beans.

On the other hand, an ounce that takes around nine to ten pieces of vanilla beans can cost around $20 to $30.

Are vanilla beans worth the money?

Yes, vanilla beans are worth the money, especially when you want to taste the best vanilla flavor. Real vanilla beans are one of the most exotic flavors on the planet. In addition, it comes with a unique taste that you won’t get with artificial vanilla flavors.

If you’re on a budget, buying these beans may not be the best option. Still, if you want to enjoy the best vanilla flavor, these beans are definitely worth the money.

Vanilla beans are so popular because of the flavor that they give. But, of course, we all know that vanilla is among the most popular flavors in many dishes and food.

However, the vanilla flavors we usually enjoy come from artificial flavoring. With the natural extract, you can enjoy this flavor in the best way possible, so vanilla beans are so popular.

Why are Mexican vanilla beans so expensive?

Mexican vanilla beans are not that expensive. On the contrary, these vanilla beans are cheaper than the Madagascar vanilla beans. What makes them cheaper is that most of the vanilla products aren’t from pure vanilla extracts. Thus, they are easier to produce, giving them an allowance to offer a lower price.

Why is Nielsen-Massey vanilla so expensive?

The Nielsen-Massey vanilla is so expensive because it’s a renowned brand in the vanilla industry. This brand boasts of its finest pure vanilla extracts and flavors.

Besides the beans themselves, this company processes all the extracts and maintains high-quality products.

These processes add up to the price, making them more expensive. Their authority in making vanilla extract also increases the demand. 

For instance, most chefs and bakers prefer this brand when they need a vanilla extract, thus gaining more popularity and allowing them to increase the price since many consumers are willing to pay for such. 

Why are Madagascar vanilla beans so expensive?

Madagascar vanilla beans are so expensive because around 80% of vanilla beans consumed worldwide come from this island.

Besides the expenses of growing these vanilla beans and the transportation and processing costs, the island also recently suffered from terrible weather.

Such a problem led to many failed crop yields. Thus, the price of Madagascar vanilla beans went up to over ten times higher than they were several years ago.


In a nutshell, they are so expensive since they are centralized and the farming process involves a lot of labor. In addition, since there is a limited supply and a high demand for these extracts that give unique flavors, their prices are very high.

Only vanilla beans can provide the pure vanilla flavor you get from vanilla extract. In contrast, if you’re on a budget, you might wonder if it’s worth buying these beans, especially since artificial vanilla flavors are way cheaper and easier to find.

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Image credits – Canva

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