Holly Garner with cocoa pods

The real cost of cocoa…

For many years the cost & supply of cocoa has remained relatively stable, making chocolate an accessible world-wide joy. However, in the last 12 months, we have seen a dramatic shift in the cost and supply of cocoa beans. The cost of cocoa in May 2023 was $2,500 per tonne, here we are in June 2024 with it now reaching $12,000 per tonne (source: markets.businessinsider.com), a 480% increase in a year! So, my fellow chocolate lovers, I simply had to share what's going on behind the scenes at Hollychocs HQ.

In 2019, Sam and I spent a day at the Eden project with their team learning more about their cocoa trees. Cocoa is a high maintenance crop which, from plantation, can take 7 years before the first fruits can be harvested. Cocoa farmers need to carefully balance the sun and shade each tree receives in the rain forest. At the time of our visit, 80% of their crop had been wiped out by a disease called black rot. On discovering that the crops can be so prone to disease, all I could think about was what if this happened to a small cocoa farmer who solely relied on that crop. It was then, that we decided that our small chocolate company would focusing on ethical supply.

The cocoa crisis

Simply put, there is a shortage of cocoa in the world to meet growing demand. West Africa provides over 60% of the worlds cocoa supply. Last year West Africa,  (Ghana & the Ivory Coast), saw a significant reduction in their yield. This is due to aging cocoa trees, disease, like we saw first-hand at the Eden project, & irregular rainfall.

Some farming communities have taken the decision to rip out their cocoa plantation entirely, replacing it for more lucrative crops such as coffee, palm oil, rubber and bananas. To encourage the next generation into cocoa farming, it is crucial that they are paid a fair price so they can reinvest and look at agricultural practices and ways to protect their crops.

I've spoken before about the importance of paying and supporting our cocoa farmers fairly. Perhaps the crop yield in West Africa could also be a sign of chronic under investment? I believe that this cocoa crisis should be a bit of a wakeup call to ensure that ALL chocolate companies begin paying a fair price for their cocoa to ensure we support our cocoa farmers robustly.

Unfortunately, in the immediate future I predict that big chocolate firms will be focused on making their chocolates cheaper, reducing size and adding even more sugar, palm oil and bulking agents.

Perhaps the ongoing crisis will encourage geographic diversion which will reduce the dependency on West Africa…. Time will tell!

Paying for quality

If you have been to one of my chocolate experiences or tasting sessions, you may already know that cocoa has more complexity of flavour than just about any other food. Thanks to the fat of a cocoa bean, the cocoa butter, these wonderful tastes and aromas are slowly released.

Sam and I have taken our time over the years searching for chocolate companies that pay farmers fairly with long term commitments. This way they can grow great beans from which we can craft amazing individual chocolates and treats. The big chocolate firms will negotiate on yearly price levels and volumes.

We can already begin to picture the way we all think about and pay for our chocolate treats. It's vital to empower farmers to invest in the future of cocoa, it's a challenge, but we think it’s worth it.

One thing we cannot do is hide from this change, we have to adapt and by working with smaller companies who work directly with the cocoa farmers, we can continue to empower them. This isn't exactly an easy task! There is impact on our cash flow as we have to commit to larger quantities, which of course brings another challenge of finding the storage space.  

One of my suppliers recently sent an email suggesting we switch to cheaper chocolates, that are laden with sugar and made with poorer quality beans. Is this really the answer? We don't think so, instead, Sam and I are taking an optimistic approach to these price rises by adapting the way we work, and reviewing our production to be as efficient as possible. This will mean some products will leave our range, and other new ones will take their place.    

We haven’t been able to swallow these huge increases through productivity and production changes alone, so we've had to increase the price of our individual chocolates and start charging for things like our small gold boxes in the shop which we've previously given away.

However, we know we need to keep you, our dear customers, in mind. So over the next month we are transitioning to smaller chocolate box sizes in 6-piece, 12-piece and 24-piece. This will allow you to enjoy and gift our award-winning chocolates in more affordable ways. We're also adding the ability for online shoppers to choose what goes into your box, knowing that you will enjoy every single one!

And so fellow chocolate lovers, I conclude today by thanking you, more now than ever before, for your continued support in our small business and the small cocoa farming communities we support on our journey.

Chocolatey wishes,



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