The world is running out of chocolate and even bumper cocoa crops cannot keep up with soaring demand from Asia, the biggest international confectionery manufacturer has warned.
The Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut Group has joined a host of industry experts in expressing concerns about “a potential cocoa shortage by 2020”, which has contributed to cocoa prices rising a staggering 25 per cent in the past year.
Barry Callebaut revealed that it sold more than 1.7 million tonnes of chocolate in 2013/14 – a year-on-year increase of more than 11.8 per cent – and said in its annual report that it “expects to continue to outperform the global chocolate market”.
But it also reiterated fears raised by Mars Inc of a global shortage of cocoa and the impact that could have on the individual consumer.
Fiona Dawson, the then-UK president of Mars chocolate, warned in 2012 that the global cocoa sector “may suffer a 1 million tonne shortage by 2020 because of the increasing economic and environmental pressures on cocoa farms”, adding: “It’s just not sustainable.”
Last year, Kennedy’s Confection magazine editor Angus Kennedy said the future of chocolate could be threatened altogether by that date – and added that the “chocolate bar of the future” would be made with so little cocoa it will be “nothing like the chocolate we know and love”.
Barry Callebaut said cocoa prices rose in 2013/14 from around £1,600 per tonne to more than £2,000 per tonne – despite “strong” crops from major regions including Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. This price rise, the company said, “has been fuelled by fears related to the Ebola outbreak in some West-African countries… el Nino forecasts… as well as financial speculation”.
Despite the shortage warnings, the increase in demand for chocolate was almost seven times greater in Asia compared to that of traditional European markets, the manufacturer said.
In South America, the market for chocolate expanded by a massive 7 per cent. Brazil, once one of the world’s great cocoa manufacturers, has in recent years become a net importer. Efforts are being made to address the problems faced by the cocoa industry – in June, Barry Callebaut organised the second annual “Chocovision” conference to “foster collaboration” across manufacturing businesses.
But there are concerns that repeated warnings in previous years have simply not been listened to. In 2010, John Mason of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council, predicted that “in 20 years, chocolate will be like caviar”. He said: “It will become so rare and expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”
By Adam Withnal