The year is 2020. The world chocolate crisis has reached epic proportions. Chocolate consumption has created a deficit in cocoa bean production of more than a million tons.
Husbands and boyfriends are scrambling to find a suitable treat that can replace those tasty morsels in a heart-shaped box. Campers are reduced to putting grape jelly in their s’mores, and the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral has been dribbling the newly developed synthetic chocolate, which looks real but tastes like feet.
A Nestle Crunch bar costs $14. M&Ms no longer melt in your mouth or in your hands, and at just under a buck a piece, Hershey’s kisses are more like a swift kick in the groin.
Sounds like an absolute catastrophe, one that could never happen, but that’s just where we’re headed according to Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut, two of the world’s largest purveyors of perfection in confection.
The problem stems from not only consumption, but production. The cocoa bean is primarily a West African import. Nearly 70% of the world’s beans are from the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Years of drought and a nasty fungus have forced a loss of 30-40% of cocoa crops, and farmers are switching to corn and other commodities to make up their losses.
Fewer beans means less chocolate. Add to that the rise in demand for dark chocolate, which contains up to 70% cacao as opposed to 5% in milk chocolate, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Necessity is the mother of invention. A research group in Central Africa is working on developing trees that will yield seven times the beans than that of a traditional cocoa tree, but it seems the quality and taste may leave a little bit to be desired.
Mark Shatzker of Bloomberg had this to say about the hybrids:
Efforts are under way to make chocolate cheap and abundant — in the process inadvertently rendering it as tasteless as today’s store-bought tomatoes, yet another food, along with chicken and strawberries, that went from flavorful to forgettable on the road to plenitude.
How many of us will lament those years we didn’t eat that chocolate bunny in our Easter baskets because hollow chocolate is grainy and tasteless? How many times have we given up when the vending machine just wouldn’t go that last quarter turn and hung the Kit Kat in midair?
If this story pans out the way the chocolate industry is expecting, those missed opportunities will become real-life regrets.