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Chocolate is latest category to be hit by major price hikes

Posted: 1 July 2024

By Greg Pitcher


Independent retailers, wholesalers and producers have spoken of the challenges of rapidly rising chocolate prices.

The International Cocoa Organization this February warned of “significant declines in production” due to unfavourable weather and crop disease in key countries.

Even though global cocoa demand is predicted to fall by almost 5%, global supply is expected to drop by around 11%. By April, cocoa was trading at above $10,000 per tonne on the New York Stock Market, more than double where it started the year.  

Edinburgh-based Coco Chocolatier contacted buyers recently to say its prices would be rising in July. An 80g Cold Brew Coffee bar made by the specialist was listed for £5 on its website in June but has a RRP of £6 from this month.

“Factors like the El Niño phenomenon, increased demand and supply chain challenges have led to a sharp rise in cocoa costs,” said the company. “We have reached a point where the price adjustment is unavoidable.”

Dorset-based Chococo earlier this year said there were “challenging times ahead” in view of the pressures on cocoa prices. 

“Given we’re already a small, lean business and are now buying chocolate at sometimes more than double historic prices, we cannot absorb all of these cost increases and still be sustainable,” it warned.

Faye Cookson, buyer at Cotswold Fayre, said a number of chocolate producers had been in contact with her as she finalised the wholesaler’s Christmas catalogue.

“We had some suppliers’ price rises come through the week before we were due to go to print,” she said. “While we always try to absorb some increases, the level of these were so significant – some costs rose by up to a tenth on some lines.

“As we work mostly with smaller brands, naturally they can’t absorb these increases and won’t manufacture an inferior product. We believe customers and consumers understand this and will continue to pay premium price for a quality offer.”

Simon MacDonnell, managing director of Papadeli in Bristol, said the cost of buying in chocolate products was rising every few months.

“What will people pay for a bar of chocolate?” he said. “When it ceases to become a weekly item and becomes a gift or treat it shoots the supplier in the foot – but they can’t trade at a loss.”

MacDonnell said he would keep a “close eye” on sales to see if he needed to consider alternatives but added that the price hikes “seem to be across the board”.

He added: “Food prices have gone through the roof. It is a bit exasperating. We have had a 5% dip in turnover despite prices going up; you would expect the opposite.” 

This article first appeared in the July 2024 edition of Fine Food Digest .