Since fall, Robyn Dochterman's Facebook inbox has been flooded with articles about chocolate's dark fate. Dire forecasts predicted that cocoa supplies would be dangerously low by 2020.
"It's safe to say there was a lot of worry in the general public," said Dochterman, chocolatier at St. Croix Chocolate Co. "But deficits don't mean chocolate won't be available."
Cocoa supplies fluctuate. But cacao (the plant from which cocoa is derived) is a difficult crop: It grows slowly, it's susceptible to disease and it doesn't turn an easy profit like corn. Because of that, some cacao farmers are ditching chocolate for corn. And sometimes rubber.
In addition, chocolate cravings are at an all-time high worldwide.
Longtime chocoholics in Europe (which consumes half of the world's chocolate each year) and the United States (which accounts for about one-fifth), are demanding higher quality darker chocolate, which takes more cocoa. Now China and other Asian countries want their piece of the chocolate bar.
Some industry experts warn that there simply won't be enough chocolate to meet demand. Servings, they say, might get smaller and prices higher.
Mary Leonard, owner of Chocolate Celeste in St. Paul, has already seen the change. She's watched the price of chocolate rise drastically during the past decade.
But both Leonard and Dochterman say there's no need to start stockpiling chocolate bunnies. They are pledging to keep their handmade truffles at their current size and price.
And Dochterman is among the candy connoisseurs who think chocolate consumption predictions have been exaggerated.
"No one is talking rationing," she said. □