Speculators a factor in cocoa markets

A funny thing happened to cocoa beans on their way to market; they – along with some other commodities – have become the latest safe haven for investors. During Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate’s presentation on the global cocoa market, which occurred in eight cities throughout the United States and Canada in late January and early February, Philippe Huet, Cargill’s director of cocoa merchandising, pointed out that financial speculators have purchased nearly one million tons of cocoa in recent months. Consequently, farmers wind up selling their crop to non-industry buyers who, depending upon price fluctuation, can hold onto the beans. Five years of low and stable prices had lead to underinvestment by farmers in the cocoa-growing areas. That, coupled with the growing global demand, which increased annual grindings as well as damage from disease, has prevented the rebuilding of cocoa bean stocks and led to another projected deficit. “So, as always in cocoa, the solution is a consistent strong price signal to the farmer,” Huet said. “We will likely see continued elevated price levels and volatility in the coming year.” The same also applies to cocoa butter and cocoa powder, echoed Piet van Amelrooij, Cargill’s director of cocoa powder sales. He noted that it “clearly remains a challenge for the world to build better stocks.” Even the cocoa butter equivalent (CBE) market remains tight as vegetable oils continue to trade at high levels. The short-term consequences suggest continued high prices as a result, van Amelrooij said. Moreover, the current crop of cocoa beans contains less cocoa butter than usual. Long-term, the ongoing slide in equity and credit markets should slow down economic growth, which would lessen price pressures. He also expects the recent imposition of price increases by a host of chocolate manufacturers to dampen consumer demand during this and the coming year. While cocoa powder prices aren’t anywhere near their historical highs, “the world needs more cocoa powder,” van Amelrooij said. “Demand for premium and sophisticated powders is likely increasing faster than demand for basic products. And I expect powder demand will likely outpace butter demand.” During the presentation, van Amelrooij also explained to attendees Cargill’s investments in the Ivory Coast and Ghana aimed at improving farmer access to cocoa bean certification and warehousing facilities. In addition, van Amelrooij detailed the UTZ program that Cargill, UTZ and Solidaridad initiated for a more sustainable cocoa chain. Oxfam Novib supports this initiative. The UTZ cocoa program, which will span over three years, includes developing a code of ethics and good stewardship amongst farmers as well as everyone involved in certifying and transporting beans to market. Once the code has been developed with input from “all stakeholders,” several pilot projects will be implemented to test out the operating principals. The pilot projects will focus on development traceability and chain-of-custody requirements as well as supply creation and producer support. It will also examine market creation and buyer support. The following year will be dedicated to finalizing the code as well as expanding the efforts to other countries. It should also mark the rollout of the group’s first certified crop of cocoa beans. Finally, the company provided details on its latest cocoa processing plant being built in Ghana, a country known for its excellent quality cocoa beans. The facility will have the capacity to grind 140 million lbs. of cocoa annually. It will produce distinctive cocoa powders that will have mild chocolaty flavor profiles. Production is expected to commence late summer, with commercial volumes targeted for 2009.

Annual sweets exhibition returns

Sweet Eurasia, the annual sweet, chocolate, biscuits and confectionery exhibition, held in Istanbul, Turkey, expects to host 300 exhibitors from more than 30 countries. The exhibitors will be searching for clients for private label and contract manufacturing opportunities as well as for their own brand distribution. Istanbul was chosen as the gathering place for this event because of its perfect geographical location, large economy and significant domestic market. This former seat of several empires and gateway to three continents provides a meeting place for such key emerging confectionery markets as the upper Middle East, the Balkans, former CIS countries, Caucasia, Central Asia and North Africa. Sweet Eurasia’s trade-fair concept suits the needs of businesses that deal with the “sweets, chocolate, ice-cream, bakery, snack food & technologies” sectors. The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., June 12 - June 15, 2008 and is located at the Tüyap Exhibition Center in Istanbul, Turkey. Admission is free upon registration. For more information, click www.sweeteurasia.com.

Spangler uses votes to add new Dum Dums to assortment

Spangler Candy Co., creator of Dum Dum Pops, is asking Americans to vote for two new flavors. Beginning on June 1, 2008, limited edition Dum Dums bags marked “Pop Vote ‘08” will be available. These bags will contain the following eight new flavors: Banana Split, Strawberry Shortcake, Cool Lime, Orange Cream, Luscious Lemon, Cinnamon Roll, Chocolate Caramel and Raspberry Cream. Once consumers have tested all eight flavors, they can vote for their favorite two by clicking on the voting booth link at www.dumdumpops.com. Voting will be available until 11:59 p.m. PST, Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Voting instructions can also be found on the back of the limited edition bag. There is no purchase or age requirement needed to vote.

Endangered Species Chocolate hires new sales manager

Indianapolis-based Endangered Species Chocolate has added Mark Waddell as the company’s western regional sales manager. His responsibilities will include building retail relationships and participating in the company’s humanitarian efforts. Waddell worked as a Navy SEAL for 25 years, where he helped developing countries and countries in crisis, before joining Endangered Species Chocolate. He also helped 28 nations by being involved in humanitarian projects. Most recently, Waddell was an international consultant.

Barbara Hilliard dies

The wife of Alan Hilliard (founder of Hilliard’s Chocolate Systems), Barbara Hilliard, 87, passed away peacefully Sunday evening, Feburary 3, 2008, at her daughter Judy’s house in Falmouth, Mass. Alan and Barbara opened the Hilliard's Kitch-N-Vue Candy shop in Easton, Mass. for the Hilliard family in 1950. Upon retirement, they lived in the Englewood and Venice, Fla. areas for approximately 20 years. Barbara and Alan this past year celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. In addition to her husband Alan, she is survived by three children, Margery Bradbard of Newport Beach, Calif.; David Hilliard of Oak Bluffs, Mass.; and Judy McCarthy and her husband Charlie of Falmouth, Mass. (owners of Hilliard's House of Candy and RCI members). She was a proud grandmother of seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.