Craving for a chocolate fix? Prepare to pay more
By Lewa Pardomuan and Marcy Nicholson
SINGAPORE/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chocoholics may have to dig deeper to pay for their favorite treat this festive season as sweet makers face sky-high prices for cocoa butter, the special ingredient that gives chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Increased demand from Asia's expanding middle class and a turnaround in sales in big consuming countries have seen butter prices nearly double to more than $7,000 a tonne (1.1023 ton) from $4,000 a tonne six months ago.
With supplies tightening and demand showing no sign of slowing ahead of the Christmas and New Year period, some chocolate makers may have little choice but to pass on the increased costs to consumers.
In the secretive industry, which has only a handful of big players, chocolatiers tightly guard the recipes that distinguish their products, and are equally cautious on prices.
Major sweet makers contacted by Reuters declined to comment on whether the butter price hike would lead them to raise the retail price for their chocolate bars, although Nestle NESN.VX said any increase in price is always the last resort.
But some smaller chocolate makers have already pushed up prices.
"We have increased our chocolate prices by 30 to 40 percent since January and most of our customers are not happy about it," said Richard Lee, chief executive officer of Aalst Chocolate, a Singapore-based chocolatier that sells chocolate to bakeries, ice cream makers and food manufacturers
"With the festive season just around the corner, the price of (cocoa butter) will rise even further and surely hit the bottom line of chocolate makers," he said. Continued...