Hot cocoa prices means less chocolate in treats

Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:38pm EST
 
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By David Brough

LONDON (Reuters) - Soaring cocoa prices, at 30-year peaks, could drive confectioners toward milk chocolate from healthier dark chocolate, and to downsize bars and use cheaper alternative ingredients.

European cocoa traders and consultants said the almost doubling of cocoa prices in the past two years will inevitably force a re-think of sales and marketing strategies of confectioners and increase the appeal of industry consolidation.

Tight supplies and low investment by West African producers drove cocoa futures prices on the ICE market in New York to a 30-year high of $3,510 per tonne on December 16.

Chris Brockman, market research manager at consultants Leatherhead Food Research, said that during an economic downturn, confectioners would do their best not to hike chocolate prices in response to the cocoa market rally.

"We'll see a move to less cocoa content," he said.

A recent shift in tastes toward dark chocolate, which has high cocoa content and is perceived to have health benefits, was likely to swing back toward milk chocolate.

"Dark chocolate has suffered substantially. It was a leading segment of the market," said Ricardo Santos, a senior cocoa trader with the agri-commodity brokerage of BNP Paribas Fortis.

Confectioners could leave prices unchanged but make smaller chocolate bars and use cheaper alternative ingredients, such as cranberries and blueberries.   Continued...

 
<p>Liquid chocolate is prepared to fill up Santa Claus figures in the workshop of the "Felicitas" chocolate shop in Hornow, south of Berlin, December 2, 2009. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>