Cocoa Future

Got another good question over the weekend:

Hey Joe! Tell me why it is that high-fat European-style chocolate bars are so much more expensive than comparable bars with more chocolate liquor in them. I’d think it would be the other way around.

Oh my, no. In the world of chocolate making, by far the most expensive ingredient is the cocoa butter. Its market value is about five times that of cocoa solids. The reason, I presume, is that there are lots of other potential uses for cocoa butter (as an ingredient, in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, etc.) as opposed to cocoa solids, which are pretty much only useful as a food.

The assumption about the relative value of cocoa fat probably comes from the fact that we think of animal fats as being cheaper than meat, and vegetable fats (oils) as being cheaper than vegetables. That’s usually true, though the rule is precisely the reverse for cocoa.

However I will say that these days chocolate makers are doing everything in their power to make us pay dearly for chocolate solids. With their so-called “small batch” and “single source” chocolates, chocolatiers are inventing ever-more imaginative ways to get us to pay up for what was once a fairly inexpensive vice.

Funny enough, these trends in high-cocoa solid chocolates are themselves driving the prices of cocoa higher, since we’re now consuming more actual chocolate in every bar. Combine that increased consumption with the effects of droughts that are currently ravaging Africa, and cocoa futures are currently at three-year highs. Expect that your favorite bite of chocolate will be taking a bigger bite out of you very soon.

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