Is there a U.S. cocoa shortage?

Milk, ice cream and yogurt might make ideal partners with chocolate, but formulators may want to put their cocoa creations on hold as the confection world grapples with the current cocoa shortage. There are also concerns that vanilla crops will not deliver as much as hoped, so salted caramel might continue to trend, by default.

Many forces have come together to create what U.S. global food and beverage industries recognize as a real cocoa shortage. Increased consumption in countries such as China and India, combined with a recent slump in production and misuse of pesticides, has triggered a warning that the chocolate supply may be depleted. Though dairy foods manufacturers are a minor user of cocoa and chocolate when compared to the candy industry, they likely will still feel the impact, said Rick Stunek, director of marketing, product development and procurement, Forbes Chocolate, Broadview Heights, Ohio.

“We have seen a definite shortage of certain cocoas, particularly red alkalized powders, throughout the North American market,” he said. “The problems of one or two cocoa bean suppliers have kind of overwhelmed the whole supply chain. While some grinders stopped delivering product, other ones rushed in to meet the demand. Now those grinders are at their limit.”

There is little cocoa powder that has not been spoken for at this time. If you are not in a contract, now’s not the time to start sourcing.

“Anyone who has to have specific cocoas to make chocolate ingredients and cannot substitute is going to be struggling,” Mr. Stunek said. “We would like to think it is only going to last another couple of months, but without knowing the internal issues of the grinders, it is hard to say.”