Sugar rush turns sour: cocoa, sugar costs push chocolate prices up

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In recent months, chocolate prices have been on the upswing, driven by the escalating expenses associated with cocoa beans and sugar.

Cocoa bean prices had surged by over 25% in the preceding year, primarily attributed to a convergence of factors, including adverse weather conditions in West Africa, which held the position of the world’s top cocoa producer. Concurrently, sugar prices had also experienced an uptick, influenced by heightened demand from the ethanol industry and various other factors.

This increase in the cost of chocolate had a global impact, affecting consumers worldwide. It was anticipated that chocolate product prices would continue to rise in the months that followed.
According to Reuters, chocolate manufacturers such as Hershey and Mondelez were anticipated to face more arduous trade conditions in the following year. They were attempting to shift the weight of surging cocoa expenses onto cost-conscious consumers, who were restraining their expenditures.

Mondelez, the manufacturer of Cadbury, had foreseen the unrelenting rise in cocoa and sugar inflation. In response, the company had asserted its commitment to substantial hedging and the relentless pursuit of productivity.
Back in July, Mondelez’s CFO, Luca Zaramella, had acknowledged the significant impact of sugar and cocoa price hikes. He had stated, “The increase in sugar and cocoa specifically was substantial, with a likely surge of 30-plus percent over the last 12 months, or possibly even more, especially in the case of cocoa.”

Several factors played a role in the escalation of chocolate prices, including;

1. Adverse weather in West Africa: West Africa, the world’s leading cocoa bean producer, endured a spell of unfavorable weather in recent months, marked by droughts and floods. This weather turmoil inflicted damage upon cocoa crops, leading to diminished production and subsequently, an increase in cocoa bean prices.

2. Surging demand from the ethanol industry: The ethanol sector’s heightened consumption of sugar had a direct impact on sugar prices. Ethanol, a biofuel derived from crops like corn and sugarcane, serves as an alternative to gasoline, and its demand had been steadily growing in the past years.

3. Additional factors: The rising costs associated with transportation and labor also contributed to the overall surge in chocolate prices. These factors collectively placed upward pressure on the cost of producing chocolate.

The increased cost of chocolate had several implications for the chocolate industry in the past. Chocolate manufacturers had been forced to raise their prices to cover their expenses, resulting in higher costs for consumers. Additionally, they had to explore cost-cutting measures, like using more budget-friendly ingredients and streamlining their operations. This upward trend in chocolate costs had led to alterations in chocolate production and marketing strategies. For instance, manufacturers had to focus on more economical products or tap into new markets less affected by cost hikes.

In hindsight, the escalating cost of chocolate had posed a significant challenge to the chocolate industry. Chocolate manufacturers had to adapt to these rising expenses to maintain profitability and ensure continued access to beloved chocolate products for consumers.

Muhammad Awais Raza is a student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sociology at the Government College University (GCU). Awais can be contacted via email at He is also available on Twitter under the handle @Awais_raza512