According to Which?, the prices of certain festive chocolate assortments have surged by more than 50% compared to last year. Despite a general slowdown in food and drink inflation to 8.3% in November, chocolate prices specifically jumped by 15.3%, almost twice the rate. Here’s a breakdown of some significant price hikes among sweet treats in the UK:

  • At Asda, the Green & Black’s Organic Classic Miniature Chocolate Bar Collection 180g increased from an average of £3.59 to £6, marking a 67.2% rise.
  • Nestle’s Black Magic 348g and Dairy Box Medium Chocolate Box 326g were both priced at £3.35 on average in 2022 but reached an average of £5.25 this year, indicating a 56.6% increase.
  • Tesco saw a 50% increase in items like Cadbury Mini Snowballs Chocolate Bag 80g, Cadbury Mini Snowballs Chocolate Bar 110g, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange Minis Bag 125g, rising from an average of £1 to £1.50.
  • Quality Street Matchmakers Zingy Orange Chocolate Box 120g at Sainsbury’s went from an average of £1.26 to £1.89 in a year, an increase of 49.9%.

Additionally, non-festive chocolates saw even steeper price hikes. Asda’s Snack Size Chocolate Caramel Chews (6x38g) increased by 107.7% from an average of 65p in 2022 to £1.35 in 2023. Morrisons’ Bolands Elite Chocolate Kimberley Teacakes 132g rose from £1.30 to £2.59, indicating a 99.2% increase. Discounters’ versions of Mars bars at Aldi and Lidl also surged in price by 75.8% and 66.8%, respectively.

The price surge is largely attributed to the escalating costs of key ingredients, especially cocoa and sugar, impacted by supply chain disruptions and poor production in the past year. Despite the higher prices, companies like Mondelez and Nestle have observed increased sales as consumers opt for simpler gifts and treats this holiday season due to financial constraints.

Manufacturers have pointed to the rising cost of ingredients, particularly cocoa, which has nearly doubled over the last year due to poor harvests in parts of Africa, in part due to a change in the climate. Retailers like Sainsbury’s have stated that they’ve worked to keep prices low on frequently purchased items. Meanwhile, Mondelez and Nestle acknowledge the challenges faced by consumers and aim to absorb costs where possible, but occasional price adjustments are necessary due to increased input costs across their supply chains.

Climate change poses significant challenges to cocoa production

Here are several ways in which cocoa prices are impacted by climate change:

Temperature and Rainfall Changes: Cocoa trees thrive in specific climatic conditions—generally within 20 degrees of the equator with consistent temperatures, rainfall, and humidity. Climate change alters these conditions, affecting cocoa-growing regions. Increased temperatures and altered rainfall patterns can disrupt cocoa tree growth and reduce yields.

Pest and Disease Outbreaks: Warmer temperatures and altered rainfall patterns create favorable conditions for pests and diseases that affect cocoa trees, such as fungi and insects. These outbreaks can devastate cocoa crops, leading to reduced harvests and affecting overall supply, subsequently impacting cocoa prices.

Water Stress: Changes in rainfall patterns can result in droughts or extended dry periods in cocoa-growing areas, leading to water stress for the trees. Cocoa trees require consistent moisture, and a lack of water can affect tree health, yield, and the quality of cocoa beans.

Crop Quality and Yield Reduction: Extreme weather events, such as storms, floods, or prolonged droughts, can damage cocoa trees and the cocoa pods. This damages the quality of the beans and reduces the overall yield, influencing cocoa prices due to a constrained supply.

Geographical Shifts: Climate change can force changes in suitable cocoa-growing regions. As temperatures change, areas that were once ideal for cocoa cultivation may become unsuitable, leading to a shift in cultivation to new regions. This can impact established supply chains and production efficiency, potentially affecting prices.

Long-Term Sustainability Challenges: Climate change threatens the long-term sustainability of cocoa farming. Farmers face challenges in adapting to changing conditions, implementing sustainable practices, and investing in resilient farming methods. These challenges can affect the quantity and quality of cocoa produced, thereby impacting prices.

Given cocoa’s sensitivity to environmental conditions, climate change is a critical factor affecting cocoa production worldwide. Efforts to mitigate climate change’s impacts on cocoa include implementing sustainable farming practices, developing climate-resilient cocoa varieties, and supporting farmers with resources and technology to adapt to changing conditions.

Therefore, climate change equals less and more expensive chocolate.

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