Have you noticed that the price of vanilla has gone way up recently? Because it has - by a whopping 10 times in the past couple years. Little Bitts is in mourning, too, but there are some interesting reasons behind the price jump.
For one, vanilla is one of the most labor-intensive foods on the market. It is made primarily in Madagascar from the seed pod seeds of orchids, which have to be pollinated by hand. Then the vanilla bean farmers have to put the bean pods through a complicated process which I won't go into here, but you can read about in this story from NPR. All of this to say that vanilla production takes an enormous amount of costly labor.
This was a real drawback for farmers before the organic food movement, when most people were happy to use a cheaper synthetic flavoring: vanillin. Many farmers simply gave up on vanilla for other less expensive crops. However, when bakers and companies began to favor real vanilla, there were not enough orchids to meet the demand. On top of that, a cyclone hit Madagascar in 2017 and boosted prices even more.
You might be wondering if there's any way to get prices down where they used to be. Farmers in Madagascar have been building new plantations, but it will be a couple years before they are able to contribute to the market and potentially lower prices. In the meantime, they'll be enjoying the influx of cash.