Chocolate lovers send demand, prices soaring: Retailer

The big business of chocolate
The big business of chocolate   

With spring comes Easter, and for a majority of Americans that means packing Easter baskets, going on an Easter egg hunt — and, of course, eating lots of candy. For the chocolate makers, the holiday means big business, but it may mean rising prices for consumers.

The world's appetite for chocolate is surging. According to the National Retail Federation, America alone will spend over $17 billion for Easter, with $2.4 billion alone devoted just to candy. This is the highest level of spending on the holiday in the 13 years the survey has been conducted.

Chocolatier and business owner Jacques Torres told CNBC that Easter is his second-biggest selling season after Christmas, coming ahead of Valentine's Day.

"At Christmas you buy for way more people than maybe at Valentine's Day; usually you buy one gift for [your] Valentine," Torres told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

This year, his New York-based company produced over 80,000 Easter holiday pieces, using four tons of chocolate. Torres says his Easter sales are up a little bit over last year. One reason is that the holiday came earlier this year, and with it came cooler weather. According to the chocolatier, people tend to buy less chocolate in warmer weather.

Still, an earlier Easter also presents a time crunch: Torres said his Brooklyn chocolate factory had to start prepping for Easter even before Valentine's Day.


Everyone loves chocolate

But it's not just Americans and Europeans who love chocolate, emerging markets such as China and India are whetting their appetite for the treat. Market research firm Euromonitor International expects chocolate sales volumes to skyrocket by over 500 percent in India between 2005 and 2017, and over 140 percent in China.

At the same time, cocoa prices have more than doubled in the last 10 years. In an effort to produce more cocoa faster, Torres said a new problem is on the horizon.

"By planting more, we find new hybrid of cocoa, and by doing that we lose some quality. So the price of the very high-end chocolates rises even more," said Torres. Even though cocoa prices keep rising, Torres is reluctant to raise his chocolate prices at the same rate. "We want to be the less expensive of the best makers," says Torres.

His profit margins have taken a hit, but he's still looking into ways to help costs, such as investing in more efficient equipment.

As for the health of the consumer Torres says "what we see is that we have more sales, in number of sales … but the average price of sales is down a little bit."

In the future, Torres hopes to expand his company outside of New York, where he currently has nine retail stores and his 40,000-square-foot factory. Torres says he hopes to be in Boston later this year and is considering further expansion on the East Coast in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.


"On the Money" airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.