Cocoa Crisis: Is the World Running Out of Chocolate?

- Leadership - Nov 20, 2014

It is becoming ever clearer that demand for chocolate is comfortably outstripping supply, with chocolate makers Mars and Barry Callebaut issuing warnings over the current deficit.

The numbers are stark. Last year around 70,000 tons more cocoa was eaten than produced, and the two chocolate giants say this could rise to one million tons by 2020, and two millions by 2030. That would represent a 28-fold deficit increase.

Much of this heightened demand is coming from China, where sales have more than doubled in the past 10 years. The growing popularity of dark chocolate is also a problem, for per bar it uses anywhere between around five and ten times as many cocoa beans.

Cocoa prices are also on the up because of supply issues. More than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supplies come from West African nations Ghana and Ivory Coast, which have been prone to dry weather and the frosty pod fungal disease, which is said to have destroyed upwards of 30 percent of global supply.

Mark Owen of the Wales-based independent chocolate company, Wickedly Welsh, believes the big chocolate makers are part of the looming problem.

He said: “A world without chocolate would be a very sad world indeed, but perhaps not as bad as a world with only the rubbish stuff to remind us of how much things have changed! The recent statement about Cacao supply is really a call to action for the farmers and producers to increase their production to cope with rising demand. 

“We’ve been here before and I’m confident the supply will rise to meet the demand hike. The wider issue, though, is that mass producers of confectionary have reduced the price point of chocolate for years by constantly reducing the cocoa solid content, removing the cocoa butter and substituting it with vegetable oil.

“All chocolate should be gluten-free and dark chocolate should in fact be dairy free too, but many manufacturers muck about with ingredients so much that it is now far from the high quality product it should be. Cocoa is actually classified as a superfood with amazing health benefits, but all of this is processed and costed out by the big brands.”

Prices will no doubt continue to rise while the deficits continue to stack up, but will we eventually be faced with a world without chocolate? 

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Cari Guittard    Nov 24, 2014
Wish there had been some mention in all the coverage of the global cacao crisis of the work to save the heirloom cacao by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. They issued a release on their efforts last week which is worth noting. We shouldn't just accept Frankenstein Chocolate as the future.