Chocolate was long considered the food of the gods and later, a delicacy for the elite. The history of chocolate stretches back more than five millennia, however, our consumption patterns changed significantly since the beginning of the XIX century, when production costs dropped thanks to innovation and chocolate became a treat for the masses.
Today, chocolate consumption is approaching historical records. The world’s average chocolate consumption amounts to an estimated 0.9 kilogrammes per capita per year. Data shows that European countries show significantly higher averages. The largest chocolate consumers in the world are the Germans who eat 11 kilogrammes of chocolate annually. Switzerland ranks as the second-largest with 9.7 kilogrammes per capita, followed by Estonia with 8.8 kilogrammes.
The European chocolate market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of around 5 per cent between 2020 and 2024, although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the cocoa value chain and changed European chocolate demand in the first half of 2020, the market is expected to bounce back and expand once the pandemic is over.
Europe houses many chocolate manufacturers of all sizes, which work with different cocoa qualities. Globally, seven multinational companies represent the bulk of the market for final chocolate products: Mars, Ferrero, Mondelez, Meiji, Hershey, Nestlé and Lindt & Sprüngli.
The largest European cocoa beans importers are the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The Eastern European markets are smaller but are growing at fast rates. In fact, Eastern European countries registered the highest annual growth rates in direct cocoa bean imports from producing countries between 2015 and 2019. Bulgaria is the region’s largest cocoa bean importer and mainly imports from Ivory Coast, although its numbers are still relatively low compared to other European countries. Direct imports from Estonia also showed a steep increase over the past five years. Poland is among the fastest-growing chocolate exporters since 2015, with a 20 per cent growth rate.
Prepare for a guilt-free Easter
Easter is the biggest chocolate shopping holiday of the year. Ahead of Easter, which this year lands 4 April, if you are wondering whether your favourite chocolate is as sustainable as tasty you can now easily find out from this ranking that surveyed the world’s biggest chocolate companies. It turns out some companies are rising to the challenge of making cocoa sustainable, while others still have a lot to do to make their products guilt-free.
NGOs developed a survey sent to some of the major chocolate companies in the world to find out what’s really going into the chocolate we buy. The survey covered human rights due diligence, transparency and traceability, living income, child labour, deforestation and climate and agroforestry as these are some of the most pressing, vital sustainability issues facing the chocolate industry today. After all, each company received an egg score for each individual category and those egg scores were compiled to determine a final bunny score.
The ranking is topped by Alter Eco, a sustainable chocolate-centric food company that aims to mitigate climate change through regenerative agriculture. Their products can be easily purchased in the US and most of Europe. You can find most of the biggest chocolate companies of Europe as well on the list including Ferrero (producer of Nutella and the Kinder brand line), Swiss chocolate producer Lindt & Sprüngli, as well as Mars, Mondelez, Hershey’s, Nestlé who all received a final yellow bunny signalling that they already initiated some encouraging policies to make their production sustainable, even though the colour of the eggs they received for each individual category are different.
What is at stake for the environment?
Cocoa is a major global driver of forest destruction. West Africa produces 75 per cent of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana being the largest producers. These two countries have lost most of their forests in the past sixty years – around 94 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Approximately one-third of that forest loss can be traced back to cocoa growing. Almost everywhere cocoa grows, studies show it is tied to deforestation, which in turn contributes to climate change.
Though cocoa has been a major driver of deforestation worldwide, it can become the reverse – an agent of re-greening around the planet. Agroforestry, as opposed to pesticide-soaked monoculture, is a more ecologically sound way of growing cocoa and restoring farming landscapes. Scientific research demonstrates that robust agroforestry cocoa systems are better for the planet, for carbon sequestration, soil and air moisture retention, biodiversity and studies show it is also better for farmers’ food security and income diversification. When implemented correctly, it is a win-win for people and the planet, farmers and forests.