Chocolate products still in high demand

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia’s growing number of chocolate lovers will indulge their sweet tooth even as cocoa prices skyrocket to the highest level since the 1970s, says a veteran of the industry.

With more than half of the world’s people, Asia accounts for only roughly a quarter of cocoa consumption, making it a growth market for chocolate producers as populations – and disposable incomes – grow.

Three years of pandemic restrictions dealt a severe blow, as entertaining, gifting and impulse purchases declined. Then the price of the key ingredient took off, thanks to punishing rains in West Africa.

“Cocoa and chocolate indulgences are still in demand,” said Elie Fouche, chairman of the Cocoa Association of Asia, who has worked in the industry for about 17 years. Demand for cocoa and chocolate products has remained steady despite the price increases that we have observed already for quite a few months.”

Cocoa grinding in Asia-Pacific, the best indicator of demand, has rebounded from Covid lows, Fouche said.

While down from a year earlier as the industry finds its post-pandemic balance, the association said processing was “better than expected” in the three months through September.

“The dip is behind us,” Fouche said, speaking at Barry Callebaut AG’s factory in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor, one of the largest plants in Asia where beans are turned into cocoa mass, butter and powder – the key ingredients to make chocolate bars, cookies, ice cream and drinks.

The younger generation in Asia like to indulge, Fouche said. This, along with low per-capita consumption of chocolate compared with countries in Europe, will help the region remain a growth engine even at times of high prices. — Bloomberg

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