We are running out of chocolate

“We are running out of chocolate“ states Barry Callebaut (Bloom, 2014). Furthermore Mars adds that we might face massive chocolate shortfalls starting from 2020 (Federman, 2015). Alarming news for all chocolate lovers. Since the 1100 AD Europeans have been consuming chocolate in increasing quantities (Coe & Coe, 2013). Yet we might have reached a point in the history of chocolate where we cannot further expand our chocolate consumption.

Source: TUMBLR

The immense growth of chocolate cannot continue as it did. Starting as a rarity when first imported to Europe in 1’100 AD, chocolate became a luxury in the 1500’s as well as a symbol of wealth and power (Klein, 2013). The demand for chocolate – like that of sugar – rose so drastically that cacao producers were suddenly faced with massive labor shortages. As they needed to find new solutions for the high labor demand, slavery began (Mintz, 1985). In my opinion, slavery is an extreme example of how far people are willing to go to satisfy their needs. With the beginning of industrialization and globalization, the availability of chocolate increased. But since we are limited to the world’s natural resources we will get to a point where these cannot satisfy our demand anymore. (Meadows, Meadows, Randers, & Behrens, 1972) Or in other words: There are limits to growth (Meadows, Meadows, Randers, & Behrens, 1972)

In addition the rising cacao price indicates a rising demand of chocolate. The price of chocolate rose even higher than the dollar price which basically means that not the rising doller is responsible for the higher price but increasing demand (Bloom, 2014). That price increase was also influenced by the growing demand of the Chinese market for chocolate, which has doubled in the last few decades (Federman, 2014). In basic microeconomic terms, an increasing price is usually a reliable indicator for increasing demand or decreasing supply. In both cases, the percentage of satisfied demand to existing demand decreases, which shows us that the supply for chocolate is not infinite.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-08 um 19.16.14
Source: Bloomberg

Several factors have a big impact on the decrease of chocolate supplies in the future. For example, the Ebola epidemic had an impact on the chocolate market (Bloom, 2014). One of the areas that was hit hardest was West Africa, which is also responsible for more than 70% of the cacao production (Bloom, 2014). Another element that makes it hard to increase the cacao supply is that cacao trees only grow under very specific conditions (Amano, 2016), and are particularly vulnerable to diseases like fungi and parasites. Cocoa was affected by those pests and diseases, with some estimates putting losses as high as 30% to 40% of global production (International Cacao Organisation , 2016). The International Cacao Organization estimates that these pests and diseases are responsible for the destruction of 30-40% of global cacao production.But the biggest potential hazard for cacao trees is climate change (Läderach, Eitzinger, Martinez, & Castro, 2011). According to a study by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Half of the worlds cacao production will be negatively effected by latest 2050.

Could Climate Change Cause A Chocolate Apocalypse?

Ebola as a threat for cacao production  (Ishmael, 2014)


In conclusion, we might need to start to look at chocolate as a luxury rather than a commodity again. Will chocolate disappear from earth? Rather unlikely, but factors like climate change disease and increasing demand will probably change the access possibility of chocolate. But to stay critical it must be questioned if Barry Callebaut and Mars as two of the worldwide biggest cacao manufacturers would have incentives to spread such a rumor in order to justify increasing prices.


Works Cited:

Amano. (5. March 2016). Amona Artisan Chocolate. Abgerufen am 5. March 2016 von Why Don’t Cocoa Beans Grow in the US?: http://www.amanochocolate.com/faqs/dont-cocoa-beans-grow-us/

Bloom, D. (16. November 2014). DailyMail.com. Abgerufen am 4. March 2016 von We’re running out of chocolate: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2836785/We-running-chocolate-says-world-s-biggest-confectionary-producer.html

Coe, S., & Coe, M. (2013). The true history of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson .

Federman, R. (28. January 2014). Quartz. Abgerufen am 5. March 2016 von Your dark chocolate addiction is driving up the price of chocolate: http://qz.com/171119/the-worlds-dark-chocolate-addiction-is-driving-up-the-price-of-chocolate/

Federman, R. (November 2015). The Washington Post. Abgerufen am 3. March 2016 von The world’s biggest chocolate-maker says we’re running out of chocolate: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/11/15/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-maker-says-were-running-out-of-chocolate/

International Cacao Organisation . (5. March 2016). Pests & Diseases. Abgerufen am 5. March 2016 von Pests & Diseases: http://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/pest-a-diseases.html

Ishmael, H. (17. October 2014). BIDNESSETC. Abgerufen am 8. March 2016 von HEALTHCARE: http://www.bidnessetc.com/27459-ebola-infects-chocolate-nestle-on-high-alert/

Klein, C. (13. Febuary 2013). Hungry History. Abgerufen am 7. March 2016 von The Sweet History of Chocolate: http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate

Meadows, D., Meadows, D., Randers, J., & Behrens, W. (1972). Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. New York: Westview Press.

Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and Power. London: Penguin Books .




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