Cinnamon prices and trade tricks
Cinnamon prices have been on rocketing up for the majority of this year. Prices are up over 150% since April when the fresh crop came in! We saw this happening earlier, and there are still no signs of a slowdown. One interesting point to note however, is that prices have still not reached their all time high in the 80’s.
In order to maintain the same quality cinnamon, we will be increasing our prices while the market remains high, as it’s now time for us to re-order.
Unlike many whole spices, Cinnamon is one that can be tampered with to keep prices artificially low for consumers – common trends we’ve noticed are purchases of weaker varieties of Cinnamon, or rushing the farming process. In China, the world’s largest exporter of this spice, Cassia (the technical local name for Cinnamon) is found in hundreds of different varieties. Many of these have less flavour. Some of these don’t taste sweet but purely spicy instead. Others have a very mild smell. Some look very odd and unappetising. All of these cost much less than the pure high quality Cinnamon that is naturally farmed for us in the Western Tributary of the Pearl River. Of course, even cheaper varieties can be found when looking into third party cultivators who grow the cinnamon outside their natural environment, such as in Vietnam.
Cinnamon is also a spice that takes years to grow to it’s full potency. It comes from the bark of a tree, and these trees grow in hard to reach places such as deep in forests and up on mountains. Since we entered the cinnamon business back in the 80’s, we’ve seen The trees take over 7 years to reach their full potential in taste, but in recent years to keep prices low, many others are harvesting the cinnamon within only 2 or 3 short years of growth! It’s no wonder that common supermarket cinnamon tastes much blander and less aromatic than what our grandparents used to cook with.
Another commonly used technique is to mask the cinnamon qualities by powdering. As we know, powdering any spice is going to negatively affect it’s flavour very quickly, as more air can interact with the spice. Flavour and aroma is lost even faster when powdering. But for customers that have never bought whole to begin with… the difference is totally ignored.
Here’s an example of a few varieties of Cinnamon that we powdered. If you saw them sitting individually on a supermarket shelf, would you know which to buy?
We’ve noticed to combat these sudden price hikes, one technique that many large spice makers tend to do is buy in extraordinarily large quantities at the start of a season (200 tonnes, 500 tonnes and on the even rarer occasion, even more!). The issue here is of course, that many times this crop is kept in warehouses and not shipped out to distributors for a full year, who then go on to not finish it up for many more months! By the end of all of this of course, the spices are completely devoid of flavour. In a way, these price hikes are the true cost of exclusively selling the best, fresh herbs and spices like us.
One may also argue that the extraordinary price purchases made by large players end up being the cause of the hike in the first place! It’s difficult to pinpoint when prices will rise and fall, and so when any big player starts purchasing several times more than usual, the market is highly swayed. It can be a self fulfilling prophecy.
In China, one of the main reasons for prices going up is the cost of labour rising in recent years. Cinnamon is a very labour intensive spice, requiring planting, constant care for years, and tough harvesting. Due to price jumps and falls, many farmers also have no idea what they will get for their spices until years after planting them!
What’s really exciting for us is that we have our foundation firmly at the farmer and factory level, and as a result can observe all the minute changes in the market as they play out day by day and week by week. Yet where the price will go… that’s anyone’s guess!
Our market price today for Cassia Cinnamon Sticks:
5g (0.17 oz) sample price: USD 2
50g (1.8 oz) price: USD 10
200g (7.1 oz) price: USD 18
500g (17.6 oz) price: USD 36