Recent Stories in Chocolate News

Chocolate is often in the news, offering more evidence that it has captured our society’s interest and imagination.  Over the past several weeks, a few stories have stood out and have the potential to significantly impact the chocolate world.  Below, I’ve compiled links to some of the big headlines, along with my own commentary.

Increases in cocoa prices

In mid-February, cocoa prices reached a 32 year high, prompting a flurry of news articles, hedge fund activity, and speculation about what this might mean for the chocolate industry and consumers.  The price fluctuation has been caused by a number of factors, especially serious political unrest in Ivory Coast, where 60% of the world’s cacao cultivation takes place.  Sugar prices have also fluctuated toward higher prices as of late, although most recently they have dropped slightly.

Political Upheaval in the Ivory Coast

In the fall of 2010, the Ivory Coast held a presidential election, the results of which are still in dispute.  Laurent Gbagbo held the office of President until the election, when he likely was defeated by opponent Alassare Ouattara.  Gbagbo steadfastly refuses to leave office, however, and has gone so far as to unleash violent, often ethnically and religiously based attacks on protesters and to order UN peacekeepers to leave the country (they have refused).  Other countries have imposed increasingly severe sanctions on Ivory Coast, and the sale and export of cocoa is in jeopardy.

This article, and the following video from Voice of America, offer more information, especially in relation to cocoa: Ivory Coast Economy Drops Amid Political Impasse.

BAMCO switches to Fair Trade chocolate

On February 7, 2011, Bon Appétit Management Co., a large food provider for colleges, corporations, and special events, announced that it would begin using Fair Trade chocolate in all of its 400 plus kitchens.  The baking chocolate will be sourced from Cordillera Chocolate, a Fair Trade Certified company.

Numerous articles about this decision are available on the web.  I recommend the following:

Blommer Chocolate Co.’s Huge Cocoa Shipment

North America-based Blommer Chocolate Co. recently received the largest cacao bean shipment ever after purchasing 18,400 metric tons of the stuff.  Blommer is no stranger to large quantities – the company’s website states: “Blommer Chocolate is the largest cocoa bean processor in North America (145,000 Metric Tons); 5% of World Cocoa Crop.”  Perhaps even more remarkable than the size of the shipment is the fact that this cocoa was Rainforest Alliance certified and purchased in accordance with Blommer Chocolate Co.’s commitment to sustainability. Read more here: Blommer Gets Major Cocoa Shipment.

Chocolate melts, whether we want it to or not

Chocolate manufacturers have, for many years, tried to produce chocolate that does not so easily melt when exposed to heat. Just imagine the possibilities!  A number of ingredient additions can help to prevent melting – sugar, oat flour, gelatin, or cornstarch, for example – though these things can significantly affect taste.  This article gives a brief summary of some of the results from research and suggests that manufacturers still have a ways to go before they are able to produce a magical non-melting chocolate: Hot Chocolate: No Heat Resistant Solution Says Review.

Just for fun: Chocolate Chemistry

2011 has been named the International Year of Chemistry (IYC2011) by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO). In honor of IYC2011, Scientific American has partnered with NBC Learn’s ChemistryNOW (which arose out of a partnership with the National Science Foundation). All of this is to say that these formal proclamations and initiatives around chemistry have led, in part, to this article and the following short video about the chemistry of chocolate. The video shows that science is part of why chocolate tastes so darn good. Enjoy!


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    Bittersweet Notes is an open source research project on chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. I invite you to join me as I explore the story of chocolate and the life stories of those involved with chocolate at its many stages of production and consumption.

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