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It's not your imagination — chocolate has been getting more expensive


Cocoa beans are going nuts. The cost of cocoa has skyrocketed. It's surging faster than even Bitcoin. And for chocolate lovers like my kids, that really stinks. We asked NPR's Alina Selyukh about what's happening, and she joins us now with some answers. Good morning.


RASCOE: So I was - you know, I buy chocolate bunnies and all this stuff for my kids. They love it.

SELYUKH: For Easter.

RASCOE: But it cost a lot. Like, what's going on?

SELYUKH: So what it boils down to is there's been a dramatic drop in supply. The world is facing the biggest deficit of cocoa in decades. Most of cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, about two-thirds of them, and most of it in Ivory Coast and Ghana. And farmers there have been facing extreme weather, changing climate patterns, which have just decimated crop harvests. We're talking heavy rains, floods, then dry season with intense winds - just wrong things at the wrong time. All of this has exacerbated problems with pests and diseases, and not just for one crop season or even two crop seasons. Cocoa harvests are expected to fall short for the third year in a row.

RASCOE: Oh my goodness, that doesn't sound good. So not enough cocoa means companies that make chocolate are having to figure this out and then pay a lot of money to get their hands on it.

SELYUKH: Yes, that's exactly what's going on. And then on top of that you add market speculators, who are just, you know, traders trying to make a quick buck on this whole cocoa insanity. And what you see is cocoa prices just growing and growing. Right before Valentine's Day, they hit an all-time record from 1977. That's a long time ago. Then they just kept going. Last week, one cocoa price hit $10,000 per metric ton - just in time for Easter, too. To sum it up, cocoa prices have more than doubled in just three months and more than tripled in the past year.

RASCOE: So is this why I'm seeing, you know, candy companies offering Easter bags with, like, extra gummy candies and marshmallows instead of chocolate? Like, is this all about cocoa prices?

SELYUKH: Well, to be clear, surveys say people like this - that people love jelly and candy-coated and gummy. So maybe that's part of it. But yes, big chocolate brands have been adjusting to this new world of extremely expensive cocoa. We've seen companies like Mars just straight up shrinking the size of some of their chocolate bars. We've seen Kit-Kat really lean into those non-chocolate flavors. Like, they've got a lemon crisp, or there's a new chocolate-frosted donut flavor.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

SELYUKH: But mostly brands like Nestle, Hershey, Cadbury - they've just been, you know, raising prices, actually, for months.

RASCOE: So how much are we talking about?

SELYUKH: Quite a bit - the price of chocolate at major U.S. stores has increased nearly 15% since the start of last year. That's according to an analytics firm, DataWeave. For comparison, non-chocolate candy inched up just 4% in that time - so 15% versus 4%.

RASCOE: So is there any resolution in sight, or am I going to have to start really saving up for that chocolate splurge?

SELYUKH: I think you better start saving up. So to fix the shortage of cocoa, a couple of things could happen. There could be miraculously healthy harvest all of a sudden, which seems unlikely. Or it will take a while. You know, it takes years for newly planted trees to start producing cocoa beans. Companies that make chocolate are saying they're planning to keep raising prices. And the interesting thing is that people have not been cutting back on chocolate despite these higher prices. You know, it's an indulgence. People maybe expect to pay more. There's a whole word for it, right? Chocoholic - people are crazy about chocolate. So that's a big question, whether people will start scaling back. Or maybe we'll start seeing just like more and more really tiny chocolate bars instead of the big ones, which frankly, maybe we could all use.

RASCOE: Well, I mean, for my kids - since they're not paying for it, they don't care. So that's...

SELYUKH: Exactly (laughter).

RASCOE: ...Another way to solve the problem (laughter). That's NPR correspondent Alina Selyukh. Thank you so much for joining us.

SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.
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