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Chocolate prices hit record highs in time for Easter

The easter bunny is going to empty out his pockets this year to fill those baskets. Chocolate prices are skyrocketing.
Posted at 8:05 PM, Mar 29, 2024

As white chocolate pours from a faucet into truffle molds, Karen Neugebauer comments on what she really hopes to be selling – joy.

"We create happiness one golden delicious bite at a time," said the master chocolatier at Forte Artisan Chocolates in Mount Vernon, Washington. 

Hand-crafting chocolate happiness can be hard work, but Neugebauer, who has been doing this for 18 years, is delighted to be kept busy.

"We just got out of Valentine's and then we need to restock because there are a few holidays like Easter and Mother's Day that are kind of important," she said.

While the truffles and chocolate bunnies in her production kitchen await to bring costumers happiness, being in this business right now feels a lot like treading water.

"We lost about 15% in sales last year. So it's really difficult to be in the chocolate industry right now," she said, "it's just a confluence of all sorts of factors working against us."

One of those factors is the current price of chocolate. The AP reports cocoa futures have skyrocketed – nearly doubling since the beginning of the year.

The culprit is a terrible growing season in Africa, where 70% of the world's cocoa is produced. Dry winds, crop disease and rising temperatures over recent months have stressed the cocoa supply. Bloomberg reports that this week, chocolate surpassed $9,000 per ton for the first time ever, making it more expensive than copper. 

Sugar futures are also up — rising 8% in 2024, after already rising 2.7% in 2023.

Neugebauer says that combined with supply chain issues over the years since the pandemic, it's been punch after punch to small chocolate makers like her.

"So now our chocolate is anywhere between 38% and 57% increase in prices, plus sugar is about a 26% increase," she said.

The National Retail Federation says the average American will spend about $180 on Easter items this year – including chocolate, candy and eggs, bringing the total up to $22.4 billion.

This is slightly down from last year, but it is still the third highest per person spending on record.

Big chocolate companies like Hershey's or Cadbury are passing the higher costs on to consumers in higher prices, according to the AP.

Neugebauer has raised her prices once since the pandemic and says she has absorbed the majority of the losses. She hates to raise them again but the current market may leave her with no choice.

As you prepare for the Easter holiday, Neugebauer has a request to all the chocolate lovers out there – help small business out if you can.

"Anyone who wants to support the chocolate industry, I don't care if it's me or someone else that you know, but go support your local chocolatier or chocolatiers in general, because otherwise we won't exist," she said.

Prices of eggs, cocoa rise as consumers spend less on Easter

Prices of eggs, cocoa rise as consumers spend less on Easter

Consumers are expected to spend more than $22 billion on Easter, according to the National Retail Federation.