By Kim Smiley
Chocolate is one of the most beloved foods, but it may be becoming a little too popular. Major chocolate makers have warned of a possible chocolate shortage looming in the near future. According to a recent article by the Washington Post, “The world’s biggest chocolate-maker says we’re running out of chocolate”, the world consumed about 70,000 metric tons more cocoa last year than it produced. The chocolate deficit is also predicted to get worst.
The chocolate shortage is a classic example of supply and demand in action. The demand for cocoa is rising at the same time that the supply is dropping. The price consumers are paying for chocolate is already increasing and is likely to get significantly higher if these trends continue.
So why is demand increasing (beyond the obvious fact that chocolate is delicious)? Part of the answer is that it is trendy to include chocolate in a wider variety of foods such as savory gourmet dishes, liquor and breakfast cereal. Even the already questionable potato chip has been covered in chocolate to the delight of many. The increasing popularity of dark chocolate also comes into play because dark chocolate contains significantly more cocoa than typical chocolate. (An average chocolate bar is about 10% cocoa while dark chocolate bars are usually closer to 70%.) The sheer number of people who are eating chocolate is also growing as chocolate is more widely available worldwide, particularly in Asia where chocolate consumption is increasing rapidly.
While demand continues to grow, supply is decreasing. Drought in West Africa, where the majority of the world’s chocolate is grown, has impacted the cocoa supply. The plants are also being attacked by diseases; the most noteworthy is a fungus called Frosty pod, which is reducing the crop further. The nature of chocolate trees also makes responding to difficult or changing growing conditions challenging because it takes them years to mature. With the difficulties facing chocolate trees, many farmers are turning to other crops that are more profitable which reduces the production of cocoa.
The end result of higher demand for chocolate will likely be further increases in the price of chocolate. It’s also likely that chocolate makers will continue to develop candy that includes non-chocolate ingredients such as nuts, raisins or nougats to meet the demand for treats while using less actual chocolate. Additionally, farmers are working to develop new strains of cocoa that are resistant to disease and drought and/or produce more cocoa per plant, which would increase the supply of cocoa.
A Cause Map, a visual root cause analysis, can be used to show the causes that have contributed to the chocolate deficit. To view a high level Cause Map of this example, click on “Download PDF” above.