Cost of living: Chocolate producers forced to raise prices

By Mared Ifan & Elen Davies
BBC News

  • Published
Image caption,
Wickedly Welsh Chocolate said it had no choice but to put its prices up

A chocolate manufacturer in Wales said it is feeling the pinch as the cost of living continues to rise.

The "astronomical" costs of electricity, heating and ingredients have led to companies like Wickedly Welsh Chocolate increasing prices.

It is the company's first price rise since it was established eight years ago.

Co-director of the Pembrokeshire-based company Karen Owen has described it as "a really tough time".

"We have made changes, we've brought equipment in to help us with efficiency in the factory, to improve what we do and how we do it, so that we're as efficient as possible and continue to give quality products to our customers, but at a price that's still affordable to them," said Ms Owen.

"To be honest, (the costs are) astronomical. Electricity has gone up 40%-50%, packaging costs have gone up 20, 30, 40%, depending on the supplier. Obviously, wages, deservedly so, for the staff are constantly going up.

"We've increased our chocolate bars by 4 or 5%, so it is a huge difference compared to the costs that are being put on us at the moment.

"But that's important to us, we really value our customers. Many have stuck with us through the difficult times we've all endured, so we want to manage that as best we can."

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Karen Owen said the last few months have been difficult

With their luxury chocolate bars previously costing £3.99, the company has now raised the price to £4.25, an increase of about 5%.

The decision was not an easy one, according to Ms Owen, who added: "We've tried very hard to keep the prices the way they have been for our customers.

"Unfortunately, due to the increase in prices all around us, we've had no choice but to increase them ever so slightly in recent months.

"But we're constantly looking at how we can be most efficient to keep the cost as low as possible for the customer whilst maintaining an excellent, high-quality product."

Smaller chocolate bars

It is not just small local companies that have been struggling.

In March this year, Cadbury announced it was reducing the size of one of its chocolate bars from 200g to 180g - a 10% reduction - although the price has stayed the same.

Image caption,
A number of chocolate producers have been feeling the pinch

In a statement, Cadbury said: "We're facing the same challenges that so many other food companies have already reported when it comes to significantly increased production costs - whether it's ingredients, energy or packaging - and rising inflation. This means that our products are much more expensive to make.

"We understand that consumers are faced with rising costs too, which is why we look to absorb costs wherever we can, but, in this difficult environment, we've had to make the decision to slightly reduce the weight of our medium Cadbury Dairy Milk bars for the first time since 2012, so that we can keep them competitive and ensure the great taste and quality our fans enjoy."

It is not just chocolate makers who are affected by the high costs, according to experts, who have said customers are already clamping down on what they put in their shopping baskets.

"It's certainly not unique to the chocolate industry. The same stories are being told across the entire food industry at the moment, from meat to dairy production, to eggs and a whole host of other packaged goods," Kevin White, a journalist with the food industry magazine The Grocer said.

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Costs are soaring for many food producers

"Costs are soaring across the whole food industry, and this is a real problem for producers. They're having to keep their costs down without cutting corners in what they produce.

"You can see that customers are down-trading and looking at cheaper options already. This is what happens in any kind of recessionary environment, although we're not quite in a recession yet, but people are looking for cheaper options."

However, the public's sweet tooth has not completely disappeared.

According to Wickedly Welsh Chocolate, people are still looking for a special treat.

"It is a worry for sure, but I think we were all so shocked by what happened with Covid, and we don't know what's around the next corner," Ms Owen added.

"So I think people are very focused on still treating themselves, and feel that they deserve a treat... people deserve something to enjoy."