Cocoa prices on the New York commodities market soared to unprecedented levels, hitting a new record high of $5,874 (£4,655) per ton on Thursday. This surge marks a doubling of the key ingredient’s cost for making chocolate since the beginning of last year.
The steep rise in cocoa prices is already reverberating through the industry, affecting major chocolate manufacturers. Hershey, one of the world’s largest chocolate makers, cautioned that “historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year.” Chief Executive Michele Buck hinted at potential price adjustments for consumers, indicating a strategy to manage the business amidst the soaring costs.
The announcement from Hershey coincided with the release of its financial results for the three months ending December 31, revealing a 6.6% decline in sales as consumers grappling with inflation reduced spending on confectionery.
Last month, Mondelez, the parent company of the Cadbury brand, also identified rising ingredient costs as a challenge for the year ahead. Chief Financial Officer Luca Zaramella highlighted significant increases in cocoa and sugar prices.
While overall inflation for food and drink in UK supermarkets eased in November, chocolate prices saw a substantial uptick, surging by 15.3%.
The surge in cocoa prices stems from poor harvests in West Africa, which accounts for the majority of global cocoa supply. Dry weather conditions induced by the El Niño weather phenomenon have particularly affected Ghana and Ivory Coast, the two largest cocoa bean producers globally.
The impacts of climate change, including hotter temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns, further exacerbate harvest challenges, posing significant risks to cocoa production in the region.
As chocolate manufacturers grapple with soaring cocoa prices and consumers face higher costs, the industry braces for potential adjustments to cope with the evolving market dynamics driven by supply chain disruptions and climate-related challenges.