The Madagascan Bean Crisis: Keeping Cool Could Cost You More This Summer:

What’s your favourite ice-cream? If it’s vanilla, then you might soon have a big problem. According to the “Ice Cream Alliance”(ICA), although there are “over 1,000 ice cream companies in Britain producing hundreds of flavours”, vanilla remains by far the most popular and is “chosen nine times out of ten”. Statistics issued by “The Food Channel” indicate that chocolate is at No.2, followed by butter pecan, strawberry and neapolitan.

However, a poor harvest last year in Madagascar – situated off the south-east coast of Africa and the world’s fourth largest island – has resulted in vanilla prices increasing from “around £14 a kilogram five years ago to in excess of £155 a kilogram now”. As The Independent newspaper noted on 6th April, vanilla is the second most expensive spice internationally due to the labour-intensive three years required to cultivate a reasonable crop of the beans. The current shortage “could push up the price of all ice-cream”.

Dave Bishop, the production manager of “New Forest Ice Cream” has emphasized to the International Business Times that “Vanilla is every ice-cream company’s biggest-selling product. You can bring out a niche flavour but vanilla will still be top”.

So who will be most affected by this situation? An ICA survey has shown that “on average, each person in the UK eats nine litres of ice-cream every year”. Although this “may sound a lot”, it’s far less than the data issued by the market research organization Mintel for Norway (10.2 litres per person pa) and for the USA (17 litres per person pa). The largest ice cream market in the world is now, however, China, where (so The Daily Telegraph’s Lauren Davidson has reported) “one third of all ice cream bought globally is consumed” and sales have reached $12.6bn due to its growing middle class enjoying higher disposal incomes”.

An investigation by Sainsbury’s has revealed that ice cream purchasing habits vary across the UK: Whereas classic vanilla is preferred in Yorkshire, shoppers in the North East “love almond ice cream lollies”, raspberry ripple is popular in the West Midlands, the Scottish palette favours salted caramel and peanut ice-cream and Londoners are most likely to choose either Neapolitan or a “chocolate and nut cone.

The Daily Mail has published the results of a study undertaken by Dr Alan Hirsh of the “Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation” in Chicago, Illinois, to “identify what an individual’s choice of ice cream flavour suggests about their personality traits. Hirsh has concluded that, if your favourite is vanilla, then “you’re more likely to be impulsive and an idealist” and if it’s chocolate, you are “dramatic, lively, charming and seductive”. A partiality for “mint chocolate chip” is a sign (claims Hirsh) that you may be “argumentative, frugal and cautious” and those who choose “Rainbow Sherbert” are portrayed as being “analytical, decisive but pessimistic”.

The “kitchn.com” assessment is a bit kinder: For them, “Pistachio people” are “creative, complex, though a bit reserved”. Selecting banana ice cream means that you inspire those around you and are probably super-healthy. If it’s cookies & cream, then you have a good sense of humour. Caramel devotees have “deep, multifaceted souls”: They enjoy yoga or meditation and love cats. You are regarded as “fiercely loyal and energetic” by your friends if you have a penchant for strawberry and (contrary to Hirsh’s opinion) as balanced, practical and quite chic if you opt for mint chocolate chip.

It’s almost summer, so you may have noticed that there are already more ice cream vans driving round the streets. As BBC News has observed, they are a “staple part of suburban life” in many parts of the UK. However, they have to abide by a strict Code of Practice. Their chimes (usually traditional melodies such as “O Sole Mio” or “Greensleeves”) can be played every 2 minutes but must not last longer than 12 seconds at a time or occur more than once every 2 hours in the same street. The chimes are permitted only once when the vehicle is stationary at a selling point and not at all within 50 metres of hospitals, schools (during school hours) and places of worship (on Sundays and other recognised days of worship). The vendors are required to ensure that the noise doesn’t cause unreasonable disturbance or annoyance and they are committing an offence if they sound their chimes before 12 noon or after 7 pm. The Code also applies to vans selling sandwiches.

The uncertain future of “Traditional British Ice cream” has become another contentious issue for campaigners who want the UK to vote to leave the European Union in the Referendum on June 25th. Zelica Carr, the ICA’s Chief Executive, has told “Eat Out.com” that the removal of long standing quality standards by the EU “has opened the floodgates to inferior products coming onto the market”. The industry, she pointed out. is worth more than £1 billion to the nation’s economy and “one of the reasons for its success is its great taste and high quality ingredients. The ICA, she declared, is determined to do all it can to “protect our much loved ice cream”. By looking for the ICA logo, “consumers can be sure that they are buying dairy ice cream made only with milk, fat and protein”

Filed under: General, Society | Posted on April 18th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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