This is quite possibly the worst news in all of history. Global warming? Spare me. Extinction of the black rhinoceros? Nothing compared to this news. Hold on to your Wonka bars, everyone. Chocolate as we know it may be gone a scant seven years from right now — and what’s left may taste really terrible.
A crippling shortage of cocoa is to blame for this devastating news. By 2020, experts say the growing worldwide demand for chocolate will be greater than the supply. This year alone there’s an anticipated shortfall of about 160,000 tons of cocoa beans.
“There will be a chocolate shortage and there isn’t a solution to the problem,” confectionery expert Angus Kennedy told industry members who met recently at the British Library in London. “Seven years is what we think we have left.”
Somehow, the experts even know the date this will happen. Chocolate Doomsday is in October 2020. Sob quietly to yourself as you continue to read.
Chocolate Demand is Up, Cocoa Production is Down
The problem is simple. Demand is exploding in Asia, Russia and Europe, while at the same time, not enough cocoa plantations exist anymore to keep up.
“We need another Earth basically if we carry on at this rate,” Kennedy said. “We are destroying the whole thing. The problem we’ve got is that much of the space that was used for cocoa plantations is no longer there.”
A high percentage of former cocoa plantations are now being used to grow much more lucrative crops like rubber plants. In addition, cocoa plants take about four years before they develop harvestable beans. There’s little incentive to begin establishing new plantations when profits won’t be realized for several years.
Couple this shortage with a booming demand for chocolate in Asia and Russia, and the problem becomes obvious. Demand in these areas has doubled since 1999. In 2014 alone, the Asian Pacific countries are expected to increase their consumption of cocoa by 5.4 percent. Demand is also high in Europe, where the typical consumer eats 17 pounds of chocolate a year.
“In the regions like Asia-Pacific or Latin America, we are seeing more middle class consumers buying chocolates compared with five or six years ago because they have the money to do it,” Francisco Redruello, senior food analyst at Euromonitor International, told the Indian Express. “That is what’s driven the growth of chocolates.”
There Will Still Be Chocolate Bars, But…
The shortage doesn’t mean you’ll never see a candy bar again after 2020. However, according to Angus Kennedy — who has tried the chocolate bar of the future — it’s going to taste like a sludgy horror show.
“[I]t’s nothing like the chocolate we know and love,” he said. “It will be much sweeter, as sugar is the cheapest ingredient and can be used to hide the fact that there is less cocoa powder.”
Candy makers will have to replace cocoa with less expensive ingredients like raisins and nougat, says Kennedy. They’ll also have to make the bars smaller and will likely begin making them in unusual shapes to make them more appealing.
“High quality chocolate snaps because of the level of cocoa butter,” Kennedy said. ”But in the future it won’t, as more vegetable fat will be used — the product will be more bendy and sludgy in texture.” Your future “chocolate” bar will be a nasty, sugary thing made with palm oil, chemicals, and fruit and nut fillers.
The relatively few cocoa beans available in the future will go toward making real chocolate that probably only the wealthy will be able to afford. True chocolate will be a luxury item, selling for about $113 per 2.2 pounds.
Over the past two years, cocoa prices have risen by 63 percent. Whole milk powder is up 20 percent. The day of reckoning is coming.
“The industry is keeping it fairly quiet at the moment, but they’re all looking very carefully at the situation over the next few years,” Kennedy told NBC News.
Start hoarding those Hershey bars now and eat chocolate like it’s going out of style. It really is.
Farewell, chocolate. You were always there when we needed you. We’ll miss you deeply. It’s the end of the world as we know it.
Photo credit (all images): Thinkstock