Why is Vanilla Bean So Expensive at Costco?

Vanilla extract is undoubtedly bakers’ best friend. The role of vanilla extract in sweet baked goods is just like the role of salt in savory dishes. It enhances the flavors of all ingredients in the recipe. If you ever forget to add vanilla extract to your pastry or cake, you will probably never do it again. Without it, your baked goods will taste bland and flat.

If you have been baking for an extended period, you must have noticed that the price of vanilla extract has dramatically increased over the past few years. Vanilla prices have climbed so high that it is worth more by weight than silver.

Nowadays, vanilla beans are known for their sweet floral scent and the hefty price tag they come with. At some point in our life, we all have found ourselves gazing at the price tag of vanilla beans at Costco, wondering why it is so high? After all, it is just a spice.

Vanilla has undoubtedly become one of the most expensive spices worldwide because it is quite hard to harvest and has to be pollinated by hand. Also, the dramatic price increase has to do a lot with a wide range of factors, including natural disasters, vanilla bean theft, complex pollination, and many others.

Therefore, finding pure vanilla beans at a bargain price is impossible. Read on to find what causes vanilla prices to jump so high and why it is still worth your money.

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Is Costco vanilla of good quality?

Due to the immense popularity of vanilla beans, many companies have started sourcing vanilla beans and selling them at a much higher rate. After all, that’s how businesses run. However, out of all the big companies, Costco’s Kirkland Signature Pure Vanilla Extract grabbed the most attention of people.

Many professional bakers cannot stop raving about Costco’s Kirkland Signature Pure Vanilla Extract. With a 16-ounce bottle, you will not run out of vanilla extract anytime soon. Also, it comes with a relatively low price – around $35 for 16 ounces which is nothing compared to other bakers’ favorite Neilsen-Massey – $16 for just 2 ounces.

Where does Costco source their vanilla beans from?

Just like other natural products, vanilla beans have different flavor profiles depending on where they were harvested. The unique flavors are because of soil and climate differences, as well as the different curing and drying methods in each region.

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Are you wondering where Costco sources its vanilla beans from? Look no more. We have scoured the web for you to find the answer. Madagascar it is.

Madagascar vanilla beans are also known as Bourbon vanilla, grown on the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Comoros, and Île Bourbon. It undoubtedly is the most popular type of vanilla bean. The rich and creamy flavor of Costco’s Kirkland Signature Pure Vanilla Extract comes from the Madagascar vanilla beans.

Costco’s vanilla extract can be paired well with fruits such as apples, peaches, melons, and strawberries, as well as used in recipes to prepare mouth-wateringly delicious baked goods.

Does Costco vanilla extract have alcohol?

Many people have assumed on their own that Costco vanilla extract is free of alcohol. However, in reality, Costco’s vanilla extract does have alcohol in it. It is a mixture of vanilla scent, characteristic flavor, and ethyl alcohol ( 35% of the original content).

Why have vanilla beans gotten so expensive?

Do you know when did vanilla beans become so expensive? In 2015, many popular food and beverage corporations decided to remove artificial ingredients from their products and replace them with natural and healthy components.

Due to this, the usage of artificial imitation of vanilla extract reduced, and the demand for pure vanilla extract increased, resulting in a dramatic increase in the prices of vanilla beans. However, there are many other reasons why pure vanilla costs an arm and leg. Let’s shed some light on a few of the major ones:

Harvested in one country

While many countries try to grow vanilla plants, more than 80% of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar. It is because the country has the right weather conditions, temperature, and technology to make vanilla beans it is the primary export.

Since Madagascar supplies more than the majority of the vanilla worldwide, it also sets the market value of vanilla. So, of course, it will take advantage of the situation and sell them at a higher rate.

The shipping charges further add to the higher price, as the United States is far away from Madagascar. Also, it is needed to be shipped in a certain way to keep it safe and sanitary. And the cost of keeping vanilla sanitary is quite high too.

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All of these associated costs drive up the price of vanilla. However, if you buy it from a country closer to the United States or from a local farmer in Madagascar, the price may drive down a little.

Blame the violent storms

The problem with most of the world’s vanilla supply coming from a single country is that if anything happens in that country, it can affect the global supply of vanilla. In the Madagascar case, it is subjected to violent storms. In the past few years, several storms have destroyed the country’s majority of the crops and buildings.

Now, this becomes a classic case of supply and demand. The decrease of the vanilla supply to the world results in a dramatic increase in the prices. Since there is less vanilla supplied, there is also less in the world.

Shortages will drive up the price of vanilla to a great extent. That’s why the price of vanilla keeps fluctuating all year long. The more Madagascar is subjected to violent storms, the more the vanilla’s price will skyrocket.

Vanilla theft

Everyone in the world knows that vanilla is the most expensive spice globally. So, don’t you think some people will take advantage of it growing in the open air? Unfortunately, vanilla beans’ high demand and prices make them a target for theft.

After working hard for many months to cultivate their crops, some farmers are left empty-handed with all their bean crops being stolen. Furthermore, the stolen beans are quickly mixed with legally purchased beans, making it difficult for buyers to determine the stolen ones.

Some farmers start picking vanilla beans unripe to prevent theft. The unripe vanilla beans are sold at a relatively lower price as they are considered a slightly poor-quality product. However, farmers still do this as it is better than getting nothing for many years’ hard work.

Labor intensive and lengthy growing process

Vanilla is undoubtedly the most labor-intensive crop to grow. The cultivation process of orchids from which the beans are produced is manually driven from start to finish. The vanilla vines are hand-planted, hand-harvested, and hand-cured.

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To make it even more challenging, the flowers of the vanilla plant bloom on only one day of the year on which each orchid needs to be hand-pollinated to produce vanilla beans. Isn’t it a tiresome process? The full production process of vanilla beans takes almost three to four years. The harder the crop grows, the more expensive it is.


For a longer time, the artificial vanilla ruled the market. It was cheaper, and the flavor was fundamentally the same too. However, when the chefs and candy makers started using real vanilla as a star ingredient in their recipes, the world started noticing.

Pure vanilla not only enhances the flavor of baked goods or candy but also brings the best out of each ingredient used in it. It gives a certain flavor to baked goods that cannot be duplicated by anything else.

Also, it is much healthier than artificial vanilla, which can be produced anywhere from coal tar to petrochemicals. Since now people are more aware and conscious of their health, the demand for artificial vanilla has drastically decreased. People are willing to pay extra for pure and healthy vanilla instead of an artificial one.

The increase in demand for a product with a small supply often results in a sky-high price.

Is pure vanilla worth the hefty price tag?

Many people often wonder if real vanilla is worth the hefty price that it comes along with. In baking, real vanilla does more than just make something taste like vanilla. Instead, it will enhance the other flavors of the recipe, which the dirt-cheap imitation of vanilla cannot do.

When a recipe calls out for pure vanilla extract, it might be tempting to go for a cheaper vanilla imitation. However, you must remember that artificial vanilla is chemically synthesized from coal tar, wood pulp, and petrochemical. Therefore, using it in your baked goods is like taking a poison inside your body in the form of a sweet treat.

Therefore, using pure vanilla in your cakes, brownies, and dessert recipes is better. It might be a little on the pricier side but not more pricer than your health. Never put your health at risk for saving a few dollars!