An Ethnography of the Opportunities and Challenges for Vanilla in the UK

Olly Aplin
Exeter, UK


This project is a downstream analysis of vanilla in the UK and highlights a number of significant themes within the relationship between company and customer. It views this relationship through an ethnographic lens. In doing so it considers the customer’s cultural relationship with vanilla. It offers an insight into consumer choice and tries to understand the language, connection, and the meaning people ascribe to their relationship with both seller and product. Consumers make products meaningful dependent on how they see themselves and their cultural context and therefore this project considers the wider societal landscape as a source of insight into these themes. Knowledge, trust and the story of collaboration emerge as themes with significant importance to the relationship between vanilla and consumer. This project puts forward these themes as a tool to analyse the consumer relationship with vanilla in other countries and regions. They also offer the opportunity for more in-depth research in the future.

Oliver d’Auvergne Aplin completed a degree in Social Sciences at Cardiff University. He intended to continue postgraduate studies in Education. However, a chance meeting led him to LittlePod Ltd. where he became fascinated by the story of vanilla. He accepted an apprenticeship in finance gaining a commendation for the National AAT Apprentice of the Year Award. Oliver decided to pursue a career in management and is now studying for an MBA whilst leading LittlePod forward in his new role as the CEO. 


His poster is the result of many diverse conversations around ethnocentrism with LittlePod collaborator and vanilla adviser Dr. Made Setiawan together with Dr. Paul Cleave (Food Historian) and Professor Harry West, Head of  Anthropology and Philosophy department at Exeter University.  Oliver has found that a rare combination of skills and experiences has given him a particularly unique perspective on the relationship between the Millennial consumer with their purchasing power in the UK and the challenges faced by the vanilla farmers in the equatorial regions when marketing their produce.a