We’ve long been enjoying copious amounts of all-things chocolate—carelessly scarfing down our Halloween candy, big/little treats, stocking stuffers, Hannukah gelt and mom’s care package confections. Well, according to candy manufacturers Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut, the chocolate “bubble” just burst—which has us all frantically wondering what this’ll mean for our future cocoa cravings (and let’s face it, our well-being).
The Chocolate Crisis of 2014 is upon us.
If you haven’t been responsibly saving up chocolate for your future, you’re not out of luck just yet. Here’s the deal with the world’s chocolate shortage and ways you can protect yourself from chocolate deprivation:
1. Don’t panic
Did you not pay attention in Econ 101? Buying all the chocolate you can physically carry out of CVS or Target will only result in greater, widespread fear. So don’t go spending last month’s paycheck on Hershey’s bars just yet—if people start seeing chocolate disappearing from shelves right before their eyes, everyone will follow suit—jacking up demand and prices and creating a prolonged downturn headed for the worst.
2. Know the facts
Between all the facts and figures thrown at us—Ebola, plant diseases, Chinese consumption and the world’s soaring demand for chocolate—what are we supposed to believe is the cause? Well, it’s a little bit of everything.
Obviously, one tout of the words “chocolate shortage” is bound to wreak havoc amongst any (sane) person. While yes, we might be in a chocolate slump—whereby farmers are producing less chocolate than the world is eating—it’s not necessarily all downhill from here. Cocoa has always been a tough business, easily plagued by droughts, nasty fungal diseases and more, especially recently.
Ever since Ebola began drastically affecting Western Africa, where a lot of our cocoa comes from, cocoa investors suspected this might happen. The LA Times even warned us back in October. So—hedge funds have increased their investments in cocoa, expecting future prices for the world’s favorite commodity to rise. This means we might have to shell out just a few more cents for our chocolate bars, according to Business Insider.
In other news, it’s been proven that our worldwide chocolate demand has increased, especially in China. But don’t be so quick to point fingers, because they still make up just 5% of total chocolate consumption worldwide. Chocolate is expected to see the largest growth of any confectionary sector through at least 2016.
3. Get fancy—support our local chocolatiers
You can save the world’s chocolate supply and do a good deed by hitting up your local, boutique chocolate stores and vendors instead of drug stores. Chocolate start-ups like this one source their cocoa beans from Latin America, where there’s far less political volatility and supply problems like those mentioned above. The down side? Mars and Hershey’s probably aren’t far from catching on and could try buying their chocolate from the region—making it difficult for smaller companies to compete. So, go buy your fancy chocolates now—in perfect timing for the upcoming holiday season.
4. Switch (back) to the light stuff
We’ve heard it by now—dark chocolate is “better for you” than any other variety. But we can finally stop training our tastebuds to favor it, because milk chocolate is back and it’s all the new rage. With a far smaller cocoa content (10% instead of 70%), eating more milk chocolate will ensure that there’s plenty of the good stuff to go around. And if the rest is milk—well, then—how could it be bad for you?
5. Be patient. Chocolate might soon grow on trees.
Money can’t, but the next best thing can—almost. While an agricultural research group in Central Africa is close to discovering a high-yielding, disease-free cocoa tree, this article notes it might take a little longer than we might hope. But let’s have faith. According to the Harvard Business Review, Mars scientists and agronomists have been at it for years grafting first-ever cocoa clones (which return old trees to full yields within 4 years) and have partnered with entrepreneurial “cocoa doctors” who deliver training and fertilizer to farmers. That, my friends, is the sweet smell of a chocolate crisis that’s looking up.
6. Eat more of the stuff with nuts, caramel and nougat
Displace some of that cocoa in your Hershey’s bar with ingredients that’ll only enhance your snack. It’s time to start eating more Take 5’s, 100 Grand’s, Peanut Chew’s, Old Faithful’s and Turtle Clusters. Those unfamiliar names you never go for on the shelves are seriously really good—stop discriminating and give them a shot.
If you’re still not convinced—and aren’t willing to pay just a little bit more when you crave your next 70% cocoa Hershey’s or dark chocolate Lindt truffle (or just have an insatiable addiction)—then start stockpiling any space you’ve got in your already-cramped dorm or apartment with your favorite varieties. Otherwise, take a breather. Our most beloved of treats isn’t going anywhere just yet.