How bakery producers can avoid the sting of runaway cocoa prices

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Both bakery and snack producers are feeling the impact of rising cocoa prices. Pic: GettyImages/Silvia Moraleja
Both bakery and snack producers are feeling the impact of rising cocoa prices. Pic: GettyImages/Silvia Moraleja

Related tags Chocolate Cocoa Cacao Natural flavors I.T.S.

Chocolate is a favored ingredient in everything from cakes to donuts – and even in sweets snacks like energy bars and popcorn – so bakers are undoubtedly feeling the impact of rising cocoa prices.

Global cocoa prices have been experiencing a significant surge, reaching historical highs in March of nearly $10,000 per metric ton. And although they have since decreased slightly, they remain elevated compared to previous years​.

Several reasons are driving this increase, including adverse weather conditions that are dramatically impacting yield, particularly in West Africa, where most of the world’s cocoa is produced. El Niño brought unseasonal heavy rains followed by dry heat, contributing to a projected 11% drop in global cocoa supply for the 2023-2024 season.

In Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire – two other main cocoa-producing hubs – the outbreak of diseases like Witches’ Broom Disease, Frosty Pod Rot and Vascular-Streak Dieback that affect cocoa plants have further strained supply. Playing into the mix is the region’s chronic underinvestment in cocoa farms and the aging of its cocoa trees, both long standing issues that have been lowering productivity over time.

And according to JP Morgan, market speculation has also played a role, with high levels of projected trading contributing to price volatility in the cocoa futures markets​.

To avoid the sting, flavor specialist I.T.S is urging producers to consider natural chocolate flavors in place of the real thing.

“One of the most straightforward and stable solutions to reducing the amount of cocoa powder in a recipe is for bakery manufacturers to use a natural flavor,” said Liz Gabriel, bakery specialist for I.T.S.

“This helps protect against the current cost fluctuations in the cocoa market, helping to give better stability in the supply chain and of course, steadying the price of the finished product.”

The Berkshire, UK-headquartered flavor house also contends natural flavors offer producers more options and flexibility as many different profiles are available. From the classic taste of authentic cocoa to milk, dark or ruby profiles and combinations such as chocolate orange or chocolate honeycomb, the addition of a flavor will help manage costs while completely transforming the product.

Going beyond chocolate

Vegan chocolate Korvaleva_K
Pic: GettyImages/Korvaleva_K

I.T.S. is also advising product developers to think about the box.

“Bakeries can tap into other indulgent and well-loved indulgent flavors to help take the place of chocolate,” said Gabriel.

“Caramel is the obvious first choice when it comes to indulgent flavors, particularly when creating a filling for a muffin or donut.

“As well as the standard caramel flavor profile, other flavors like salted caramel, caramelized biscuit or even a ‘braver’ take like miso caramel can help create additional flavor notes to frostings and that all important mouthfeel.”

The palette of nuances is vast. Raspberry, mint, hazelnut and coconut are trending, while for the daring, there’s notes like sesame, pink grapefruit and cinnamon bun.

Still can’t resist the lure of chocolate? Gabriel then suggests considering white chocolate, which she said “is “seeing a resurgence in both indulgent and standard ranges and does not rely on cocoa powder like its partner flavor.”

The cocoa crisis has brought forward a flurry of innovation and FoodTec whizzes are coming up with wildly innovative alternatives to recreate the taste, texture and appearance of chocolate. Such as Nukoko's chocolate made from faba beans, which recently saw it inducted onto the EIT Food Accelerator Network program.

Alternatively, Israeli start-up Kokomodo believes it could cultivate cocoa cells​ – just like the next gen of meat production – to ensure an all-year round supply of cacao, the raw, unprocessed version of cocoa, as reported by FoodNavigator, Bakery&Snacks' sister publication.

Related topics Bakery Desserts

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