Why Is Chocolate Getting So Expensive?

A blog about business and economics.
July 24 2014 5:37 PM

Chocolate Is the Latest Foodstuff to Become Super-Expensive

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Melts in your mouth, burns up your wallet.

Photo by Pete via Flickr

Sure, most food is expensive these days, but chocolate is on a tear. On Thursday, Mars, the company behind the likes of M&M's and 3 Musketeers, said it was raising prices for chocolate products in the U.S. by about 7 percent to make up for higher ingredient costs. The decision followed a similar move from Hershey a week ago, which announced an increase of roughly 8 percent in wholesale prices to offset increased commodity, transportation, and manufacturing costs.

The hike in chocolate prices is being driven by the soaring cost of cocoa beans, which has risen 18 percent this year alone. On the one hand, poor yields from major cocoa producers (68 percent of the world's cocoa comes from Africa, according to the World Cocoa Foundation) have limited supply of the beans. On the other, demand has soared as part of a trend for higher cocoa content in chocolate candies and products. The New York Times reported in late 2013 that chocolate prices in certain markets had gained 40 percent or more from the previous year.

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In an April report on the global cocoa market, the World Cocoa Foundation noted that the rate of increase in cocoa production "may slow in the coming years, as cocoa trees are sensitive to changing weather patterns"—aka climate change. Should that forecast prove true, we can likely expect to see other chocolate manufacturers bumping up their prices for sugary confections. In the meantime, we can only hope agricultural organizations will find a fix for the sensitive plants, lest cocoa beans become as endangered as the drought- and blight-stricken arabica beans that are a staple of coffee.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

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