Homegrown Business: gourmet vanilla products with Tribal Vanilla

Tribal Vanilla is a Calgary business that sells gourmet vanilla products. We spoke with Rochelle Edwards, VP Sales and Marketing, to find out more about them.

Tribal Vanilla

What is your business called and what does it do?

Our business is called Tribal Vanilla, and we sell gourmet vanilla products including Grade A Vanilla Beans imported from Uganda, Vanilla Bean Paste from Indonesia and Vanilla Bean Candles. Our network of small-scale farmers produces the highest quality vanilla, which we import for consumers who value quality and ethical production.

We provide a fresh approach to our industry. Our name, Tribal Vanilla, signifies that through purchasing our vanilla products the consumer becomes part of a tribe or community that is changing lives in both Uganda and Indonesia. It enables the consumer to feel good about helping improve the quality of life of small-scale farmers in the developing world while receiving premium vanilla products.

What made you want to do this work?

We wanted to create a business that not only provided high-quality products for our consumers, but allowed us a platform from which to advocate for and improve the lives of others around the world. We use a direct fair-trade business model, which means our small-scale farmers get paid prior to their harvests and receive the most amount of money for their vanilla products. We supply the best quality natural vanilla products at a fair price, while changing the lives of our farmers through assisting them in creating sustainable agriculture.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

Vanilla is very expensive in grocery stores at the moment because there is a worldwide shortage. We sell our premium vanilla products at competitive prices and provide consumers with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our small-scale farmers through their purchases.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

From individuals to commercial kitchens, our main clientele is people who desire high-quality vanilla products and understand the benefits of purchasing fair-trade vanilla. Our clientele wants high quality at a fair price and appreciates products that are affecting positive change in the world. We also love partnering with various companies who love the powerful taste or scent of vanilla in their products. Anything from vanilla-flavoured alcohol, honey, baked goods, pressed juices and more; we love collaborating with other local and startup businesses!

How does your business make money? How does it work?

Like any business, we need to source our products at a competitive price on the world market in order to retail them to customers at a price they can afford. This has been a challenge in the vanilla industry because we are at the mercy of the weather and natural disasters on the other side of the world, which dictates the price at which we can buy our products. We try to purchase in bulk to get the best price possible so that we can pass on those savings directly to our customers.

Where in Calgary can we find your profession?

You can find our vanilla in over 20 stores in Calgary, including Village Goods, Artisan Galleria, Amaranth, Bite YYC, Ollia Macaroons, Italian Centre, Light Cellar, Bowness Health Foods, Piece one Peace, SPUD, Apothecary in Inglewood, The Gourmet Pantry and many more. Check out our website under the “Find Our Vanilla” tab for the full list of locations in Calgary and across Canada.

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

Customers have a choice! So, why should they buy our vanilla products over the competition? What makes Tribal Vanilla different is our approach to business…it’s not all about the money. Our desire is to affect change and create a better world.

When customers purchase our vanilla they are contributing to our direct fair trade business model which helps us accomplish this goal. Secondly, quality matters so we are relentless about ensuring we provide top-quality vanilla to our customers. For example, our vanilla pods are individually inspected and hand-sorted by trained staff who only accept the very best prior to packaging.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

The best part of our job is knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of our small-scale farmers. We pride ourselves on our personal approach to business by providing on-the-ground liaisons to our farmers and providing them with the tools and funding they need in order to improve a better quality of life. We love when other people become part of this tribe that is changing lives.

The worst part is that the price of vanilla has skyrocketed worldwide and is out of our control. We sell our vanilla at the fairest price possible, and look forward to the day when the price of vanilla decreases.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

It’s funny how the word “vanilla” became a connotation and descriptive word for being boring and dull. Vanilla is one of the most powerful and aromatic spices out there!

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