Is there a stick as beloved as the cinnamon stick? The walking stick, yes, or maybe a stick that a dog likes. But is there a stick as widely used in food preparation? Maybe some sort of skewer, sure, or a stick for stirring. But is there a stick that tastes as much like cinnamon when you put it in a simmering pot of wine, or when you throw it in with hot toddy ingredients and then tell your friends to just add the whiskey themselves, however much they want, you don’t like it anyway, and you just bought it for this party? No. That’s just the cinnamon stick’s thing.
Get ready to pay more for it than you expected.
If you’ve ever purchased cinnamon sticks, I imagine you’re nodding your head in agreement or at least agreeing in your mind without any outward motion, which is your choice. They are too expensive. A quick survey of three grocery stores near my apartment offered these prices for McCormick ground cinnamon and McCormick cinnamon sticks: $3.49 for ground cinnamon (2.37 oz) and $7.49 for cinnamon sticks (.75 oz). Outrageous. A survey of the fancy grocery store near my apartment offered these prices for Simply Organic ground cinnamon and Simply Organic cinnamon sticks: $7.99 for ground cinnamon (2.45 oz) and $6.99 for cinnamon sticks (1.13 oz). Outrageous. As you can see, the cost per ounce of the cinnamon stick compared with the cost per ounce of the ground cinnamon is: outrageous.
It’s possible you know a little bit about cinnamon and are guessing that, perhaps, the ground cinnamon is made of the less expensive cinnamon and the cinnamon sticks are the more expensive type. If you don’t know what I’m talking about at all, I’ll tell you right now.
I’ll start with this. Cinnamon is the inner tree bark of evergreen trees in the genus Cinnamomum. The genus splits into two cinnamon species: Cinnamomum verum, known as Ceylon cinnamon, and Cinnamomum cassia, known as Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon comes from Sri Lanka, and Cassia, which comprises three species (but they’re all essentially the same so don’t worry about it), comes from China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
The cost per ounce of the cinnamon stick compared with the cost per ounce of the ground cinnamon is outrageous.
Ceylon cinnamon is rarer in the US and is thought to be superior in taste and in the health benefits it offers. It is known (to snobs, let’s be honest) as “real” cinnamon. Of the cinnamon imported into the US, Ceylon makes up only about 10 percent. It is likely that if you live in the US, the cinnamon you’ve known throughout your life has been Cassia, the “shitty” cinnamon, which in my opinion is actually fine.
Knowing that information, it’s reasonable to guess that the higher price for the fancier stick cinnamon could be due to a Sri Lankan origin. This information is somewhat difficult to find. So, with this question in mind, I bothered multiple employees at both McCormick and Frontier Natural Products Co-op, the company that houses Simply Organic.
The very helpful representatives at Frontier told me that, first, price is ultimately determined by stores and, second, Simply Organic’s ground cinnamon is, yes, indeed, Cassia. It is from Vietnam. And what about the cinnamon in stick form — is that Cassia from Vietnam, as well? Hmm. I’m going to add in some suspense now. Pause while reading. Okay. And now continue.
Oh my god. As for why the same cinnamon is sold at a higher price per ounce when it is in stick form, the answer is once again that price is ultimately determined by stores but then also: “I’m not sure why that would be. Do you mind if I put you on hold for a second?”
My question was passed on to marketing, and I have not yet heard back. If you’re thinking that it is suspicious that I have not yet heard back from marketing, I must admit that I agree.
I did, however, hear back from Frontier Natural Products Co-op Customer Care email service. What I was told is quite shocking:
It looks like the cinnamon sticks and the ground cinnamon from Simply Organic are from different regions and different farms, and are different species of cinnamon.
The cinnamon sticks are the botanical name Cinnamomum burmannii coming from Indonesia, and the ground cinnamon is Cinnamomum loureirii coming from Vietnam. As mentioned before, they are two different types of cinnamon coming from two different farms. One is more costly for us to purchase than the other.
Oh my god. Fake news, even in the world of cinnamon? What would President, oh my god, Donald Trump think? I called the Frontier Natural Products Co-op hotline to attempt to clear up the discrepancy and was told that, no, both the ground and stick cinnamon from Simply Organic are from Vietnam. However, Frontier brand cinnamon sticks are from Indonesia. That is corroborated on the Frontier Co-Op website, which sells Korintje, which is Indonesian cinnamon.
However again, on a webpage that no longer exists on the Simply Organic website that I have accessed using the Wayback Machine, captured on March 22, 2016, the cinnamon sticks are listed as Cinnamomum burmannii — Indonesian cinnamon.
Currently on Simply Organic’s product website, origin is not listed. Is that because both cinnamons are now sourced from Vietnam?
I attempted to confirm again with Rachel from Frontier’s customer care email service. After a few confusing emails, we reached clarity:
Simply Organic Cinnamon Sticks – Indonesia
Simply Organic Ground Cinnamon – Vietnam.
I am sorry for the confusion. I mistyped that below I believe.
Rachel Customer Care
I am publishing the emails, and the information obtained from the Frontier Natural Products Co-op hotline, as well as the image obtained from the Wayback Machine so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about Simply Organic cinnamon and cinnamon sticks that have circulated at the highest levels of my research.
Next: Very helpful representatives at McCormick told me that, first, price is ultimately determined by stores and, second, their ground cinnamon is, again, indeed, Cassia. In the classic plastic-bottle-red-cap ground cinnamon, the origin is Indonesia. In the more expensive glass-bottle-green-cap version, the origin is Vietnam. And the origin of the corresponding cinnamon sticks? I’ll save you the suspense. It is: the same.
When I asked whyyyyyyyyyeeee the price for the same cinnamon was higher in stick form, the nice representative said, “That’s a very fair question, Kelly,” which was true. (He then reminded me that price is ultimately determined by stores.) But he also had an answer.
“There are a lot of factors that go into that,” he told me. Essentially the answer is twofold, or threefold if you take into account grocery store pricing, over which McCormick technically has no power, a fact of which the company will be glad to remind you. The cinnamon stick has to be extracted in one piece, making it a little more fragile and harder to harvest. Also, there is less demand for cinnamon sticks than there is for ground cinnamon. (Perhaps part of the decreased demand comes from the fact that they are outrageously expensive. I did not say this to my new helpful friend, but I did think it.) Because of these factors, cinnamon sticks have to be sold at a higher price in order to make selling cinnamon sticks profitable. Allegedly.
The cinnamon stick has to be extracted in one piece, making it a little more fragile and harder to harvest.
A PR rep from McCormick reached me by email after I’d left one (1) voicemail and two (2) emails (suspicious) (what are they hiding?) and told me essentially the same thing. “Many people don’t know this, but cinnamon is the bark of a tree,” she said, which in fact is something I did know. “Our cinnamon sticks are sourced differently than the cinnamon we grind into bottles. The quills are specially selected for attributes like length as well as the thickness of the bark and how tightly they are rolled. They are also selected, inspected and packaged by hand.”
So. I guess that’s allegedly why the price of cinnamon sticks is ridiculous compared to the price of ground cinnamon. Because cinnamon sticks are harder to make and nobody even wants them. Or maybe the thing Simply Organic said.
But also it kind of seems to me like it’s just a bunch of bullshit that happens for no reason!!!