Easter and the Cocoa Calamity
Stop, log out, leave the building and stock up on chocolate. With the world in the midst of a cocoa crisis, this could be the last Easter as you know it…
Chocoholics (i.e. everyone) should be warned – chocolate is genuinely running out. It has been estimated that we are munching through 70,000 tonnes more cocoa than farmers are producing every year. Drought, fungal disease, Ebola, an expanding middle-class and growing demand in countries previously disinterested in one of the world's favourite sweet treats are just some of the contributing factors.
Projects around the world are already in place in an attempt to tackle the crisis, but it's likely to take years for a new means of production to catch up with the world's chocoholism. Further, many of the suggested "solutions" are near-sacrilege. Bearing in mind the origin of the word "chocolate" (literally, a "food made from cacao seeds"), it seems counterintuitive to substitute the key ingredient with pretenders such as mango. And more importantly, do these fraudster scientists really think we won't notice the difference?
Clearly a world without chocolate is a nightmarish prospect at any time of the year, but with Easter just around the corner the idea seems even more frightening. This is a prospect worse than Christmas without turkey, NYE without champagne, or birthdays without cake because everybody eats chocolate: vegetarians, children, priests, the Queen… even the mysterious self-punishing hipsters who avoid gluten for no apparent reason. In fact, only 5% of Brits do not touch the stuff.
The cocoa shortage is not just a concern for consumers. In the UK, we will spend an average of £14 per person on chocolate over this coming weekend. Retailers need to adapt to maintain this level of profit amidst the cocoa shortage and, unsurprisingly, it seems that their approach so far has been to the detriment of their customers. Sadly, we are now all-too-familiar with stories of "shrinkflation": smaller eggs, bigger prices, and just plain weird changes to our favourite chocolate bars (who can forget the gross injury to our beloved Toblerone?). At the other end of the spectrum, the rise in luxury Easter confectionery suggests that higher-end retailers may instead disguise the increased production outlays within a price which is already many times the cost of your average Dairy Milk egg.
So what to do? Accept that Creme Eggs will be the size of Mini Eggs by 2020? Cough up £25 for a chocolate teapot? Wait around for "chocolate" derived from mango?
An alternative - and brave - approach is to drop the chocolate altogether. It seems that some retailers are anticipating this from consumers, as non-chocolate Easter options are popping up with increasing frequency (and bizarreness – cue the cheese egg). Retailers in other sectors are also expecting a change in spending this Easter, with bars and restaurants gearing up for the public to forget about pricey consumables, and instead make the most of the sunny forecast and their remaining March pay-packet.
A world without chocolate sounds like a child's nightmare, but it could become our reality if the cocoa crisis does not pick up. With one in six Brits eating chocolate every single day, there would be genuine trauma should the unspeakable happen. Perhaps this weekend, complete with its cheesy offerings and lack of April showers, is our opportunity to realise that Easter, and life, need not revolve around chocolate. After all, as much as it is a modern tradition, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Kit Kats that Jesus was breaking with His disciples.