A drought in West Africa and unrest in the Ivory Coast — the world’s biggest cocoa producers — raised concerns about a shortage. The International Cocoa Organization reported last week that world production of cocoa is down 5.5 percent from 2005-06. Cocoa futures have been trading at three-year highs since the beginning of January.
In addition, the demand for dark cocoa has risen as customer taste has shifted from milk chocolate to dark chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa is required for production. The National Confectioners Association reports that retail sales of chocolate in the United States have climbed about 3 percent every year since 2000, with dark chocolate the fastest growing category.
“Consumers are very interested in the goodness benefits of chocolate, including the antioxidants found naturally in dark chocolate,” said Michele Buck, Hershey chief marketing officer, in a written statement. “This interest is driving explosive growth in dark chocolate.”
Sally Henry, owner of Henry’s Cake and Candy Supplies, Friedens, said she hasn’t seen a fluctuation in supplies. She asked her suppliers and they haven’t seen a drop in cocoa either.
“We’ve heard there was going to be a shortage off and on for the last four years,” she said. “Right now, there isn’t. The price is still holding and our prices haven’t gone up.”
Henry sells handmade candy and supplies for people who make their own. She has been in business for 11 years. Easter and Christmas are her busiest times.
“In Somerset County, milk chocolate is more popular than dark chocolate,” she said. “A lot of churches and organizations buy their supplies here.”