How Large Is the Chocolate Industry?

by Chris Bradford
Favorable health reviews on moderate consumption make chocolate increasingly popular

Favorable health reviews on moderate consumption make chocolate increasingly popular

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Consumer demand for chocolate is on the rise worldwide. The National Confectioners Association reports that 52 percent of Americans claim chocolate as their favorite flavor. Recent research has found that chocolate contains antioxidants and minerals, and can help reduce risk of heart attacks and cancer. No indications suggest that the collective appetite for chocolate will be quenched anytime soon.

U.S. Chocolate Industry

The NCA reports that retail sales of chocolate products reached $18 billion in 2010. According to NCA, annual sales have continued to increase from 3 to 4 percent per year. In 2010, the U.S. exports of chocolate to worldwide markets were estimated to be over $1 billion. The undisputed leader for North American sales of chocolate products, the U.S. has a market share estimated at over 86 percent.

Global Chocolate Market

Chocolate Industry analysts M&M predict the global chocolate market will experience annual sales of $98.3 billion by 2016 -- the result of an annual growth rate approaching 3 percent. Demand in Asia is a major source in the growth of sales, and is expected to rise to a 20 percent share in the global market by 2016.

Cocoa Production

Chocolate is a by-product of the cocoa bean. Over 50 percent of the cocoa harvested annually worldwide comes from West Africa. Most comes from Cote d'Ivoire -- Ivory Coast -- followed by Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. Other significant producers include Indonesia, Brazil and Ecuador.

Market Leaders

The largest manufacturers of chocolate in the world are annually ranked according to sales. The International Cocoa Organization lists the top producer as Kraft Foods, Inc. with net sales of nearly $20 million, followed by Mars, USA, Inc., and Nestle SA Switzerland.


Reports of child exploitation and trafficking in slavery to provide laborers for West African cocoa plantations, most notable in Ivory Coast, surfaced in 2000. Threats of U.S. and U.K. boycotts brought pledges from the major chocolate manufacturers to pressure growers for the elimination of forced child labor. The problem continues to be monitored and remains a top priority for industry reform.

Concerns regarding the environmental impact of cocoa plantations focus on expansion in tropical areas that displaces native species and the use of pesticides with adverse effects on native plants. Another area of concern among chocolate growers is the movement to standardize highly productive hybrid varieties of cocoa, which threatens many of the variations within the species that can make certain chocolates highly desirable.

The Fair Trade USA organization is just one group dedicated to promotion of trade relationships that support livable incomes for farmers, laborers and families of cocoa growers through commitment to prices that produce a stable economic and social environment. Organizations like Fair Trade USA also promote the individuality of the native types of cocoa grown in various regions.

About the Author

Retired investigator Chris Bradford has been writing since 1988. His work has appeared in "Security Journal," as well as various online publications. Bradford is a certified information-technology professional and fraud examiner.

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