Making vanilla cheaper for the world

Vanilla is one of the world’s most popular flavors. However, despite its popularity, its production is so complex that many people aren’t often getting the real thing, but a synthetic version of the flavoring.

About 70% of the vanilla we consume is grown in Madagascar, and if you saw the weather news lately, the area was hit by not one, but two cyclones in the past 10 days. This isn’t just a “now” problem, but storms and poor growing conditions have plagued the area for nearly 20 years and caused vanilla prices to go from $25 per kilogram to hundreds of dollars per kilo. That growing climate change, inconsistent supply of natural vanilla beans, and labor-intensive practices for growing vanilla are some of the reasons that 95% of the vanilla we consume is synthetic, according to Oren Zilberman, CEO of Vanilla Vida.

Israeli-based Vanilla Vida is among a handful of companies trying to replicate vanilla using innovative approaches. In Vanilla Vida’s case, it is taking a direct farming approach — Zilberman’s roots are in farming — by developing vertical integration and supply chain technologies so natural vanilla can be grown in a controlled environment.

The company started in 2019 with an idea stemming from a failed research experiment on vanilla growth done in The Netherlands. Vanilla Vida took the aspects of the research that did work and expanded it into new places for growing and processing. “The thing that pushed us forward more than in the past, was to reach the important milestone of giving value to the customer — quality of the product,” Zilberman told.

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