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Chocolate Shortage Amid Easter Candy Demand

Featured, Lifestyle

Chocolate candy | Image by Shulevskyy Volodymyr

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Premium chocolate candies and chocolate bunnies were in high demand and short supply this Easter season due to an industry-wide cocoa bean shortage. High-end chocolatier Li-Lac Chocolates discussed with Epoch Times how the pandemic and supply chain interruptions are impacting business.

Aside from the overall decrease in available cocoa beans, there also is an increase in the company’s supply costs. Jeremy Merrit, the purchasing manager for Li-Lac, says that 80% of Li-Lac’s packaging comes from China due to costs. Getting the package supplies such as plastic ribbons, custom gift boxes, gift bags, and baskets has been difficult due to China’s recent lockdowns in their port cities.

“It was a huge eye-opener for us to realize how reliant we had become on China,” said Merrit. “Reversing this is a priority.”

In addition, most of the world’s cocoa bean supply comes from West Africa along the Ivory Coast. Suppliers are having problems with shipping due to post-pandemic disruptions. With fewer cocoa beans produced and the market slowing down, the system is not working as effectively.

Christopher Taylor, CFO of Li-Lac Chocolates, said the company was able to get past the pandemic to have a good Easter season this year. However, the cocoa bean shortage threatens prices, availability, and profitability.

Other ingredients used to make the high-grade chocolate have also been in short supply. Some components, Li-Lac orders yearly, while fresh ingredients are ordered month to month.

“Just as we thought we were through with the pandemic, we got hit by the supply shortage crisis,” said Taylor. Stressed by “the big chocolate shortage,” Taylor says there were times they “had to scramble to secure the raw ingredients.”

The cocoa bean shortage did not immediately affect Li-Lac, as the company secured a contract for 100,000 pounds of beans in 2020, when costs were lower, to complete production for 2021. However, getting the quantity of cocoa beans necessary in the future could prove difficult.

“Usually, we sign contracts to purchase 100,000 pounds of raw chocolate,” noted Taylor, “but right now, we’re purchasing day-to-day. At times over the past year, we’ve been down to just a few days of supplies,” he said.

Taylor explains that the shortages have caused issues with consistency, something Li-Lac prides itself on.

“We’ve done our best to maintain consistent formulation but prioritize quality. Most customers can’t tell the difference, but our consistency has suffered.”

While Taylor is confident that Li-Lac’s place in the industry is cemented, primarily due to its loyal customer base and its product quality, he said smaller chocolatiers that order 10,000 pounds of cocoa beans at a time could suffer substantially.      

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