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Lifestyle fad hygge pushes up spice demand

Hygge, the Danish art of cosiness that has become Europe’s latest lifestyle trend, is boosting demand for spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla.

Growing popularity of the Nordic art of living, which encapsulates all things cosy from cashmere to candles, has coincided with soaring global demand for spices due to unusual weather conditions in the main growing regions.

Alongside a growing appetite for spice-laden Scandinavian cakes and this Christmas season’s cinnamon-laden mulled wine is demand from the non-food sector.

People are using the aroma-heavy spices to create homemade gifts and decorations to “encapsulate the hygge feel”, according to Tasneem Backhouse, managing director of EHL Ingredients, a UK supplier of spices and pulses. She said: “We’ve seen an increase in sales of cinnamon, cloves, star anise and whole nutmeg from companies that aren’t in the food sector, such as craft businesses.”

Prices for cinnamon and its related variety cassia have jumped more than 20 per cent this year, according to commodity data group Mintec. It said the weather pattern El Niño had hit output in Southeast Asia and encouraged hoarding by local exporters. Low prices over the past few years have meant that growers in Indonesia have planted fewer trees, adding to the tightness of the market.

Cardamom prices have almost doubled in India as a long dry spell lowered production this year by about 25 per cent.

Vanilla prices have almost tripled in the past two years to about $400 per kilogramme, according to vanilla traders Eurovanille in France, due to speculation by local middlemen and crop collectors in Madagascar.

The jump in vanilla prices has been a particular problem for traders and food companies as Madagascar supplies about 85 per cent of the world’s vanilla pods.

Buyers are now “fighting to get a few kilogrammes here and there”, said Alexandre Bleneau at French agricultural trader Touton, adding: “The price is just crazy.”

Among food producers, US spice and ingredients group McCormick has raised its vanilla price several times this year and Eurovanille said it did not see prices coming down until the middle of 2017.

Jonas Aurell, who runs ScandiKitchen, a Nordic café and grocery store in central London, said that cinnamon and cardamom were the “cornerstones of our baking repertoire”.

He added: “Since hygge took off, we’ve been selling a third more cakes and buns.”

But there is one bright spot for spice buyers: the price of the world’s most expensive spice — and the main ingredience in Scandinavia’s Christmas treat the saffron bun — has fallen about 7 per cent this year to $2,200 per kilo.

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