Why Do Cocoa Beans Cost So Much?

That wasn’t the exact question, but close enough for a title. The exact question was

“why is raw cocoa so much more expensive than fully processed chocolate product? ”

Well, at first I started coming up with “rationales” why they are the price they are; small lots, small business, big business, buying power, etc. Then I went by a couple stores, found out just how much various chocolates sell for, and discovered that I don’t need to explain why the prices are like they are. I just have to answer the question.

Well, the answer is, they don’t. It is cheaper to make your own from these “expensive” cocoa beans. Let’s look at the numbers.

If we look what I consider the “cheap” chocolate on the market, you will find that a 1.5 oz bar of Hershey’s is $0.55. Let’s do a little scaling up. 3.0 oz is $1.10, 16 oz (1 lb) is $5.87 and 5 lbs is $29.33. (and sure, you might be able to buy 5 lbs for less than this. This is just a simple way to make some comparisons.) Hershey’s chocolate has about 20% cocoa in it, so that 5 lbs of chocolate has 1 lb of cocoa beans in it.

5 lb Hershey’s chocolate = 1 lb cocoa beans = $29.33
1 lb Ghana Forastero from Chocolate Alchemy = $12.00

You make the call which is more expensive.

It just the same for “specialty” chocolate from chocolatiers like Scharfenberger and Dagoba. A 3 oz bar of 70% chocolate is usually about $3.00. One pound is about $16.00 and 5 lbs would be $80.00. In this 5 lbs there would be 3.5 lb of Criollo or Trinatario cocoa beans.

5 lb specialty chocolate = 3.5 lb cocoa beans = $80.00
3.5 lb Criollo from Chocolate Alchemy = 3.5 x $15.00 = $52.50

Not as quite as far ahead, but there you go.

Finally, let’s have a little fun with this Porcelano Criollo that I think spurred this question. Amedei and Domori list 50 g for about 6.00 British pounds or $10.50 US. This is for 1.5 oz of chocolate. At this rate, a pound would be around $105.00. I am saying the Porcelano beans may be $35.00 or so per pound.

I leave it as an exercise to the student to say which is more expensive.

Happy chocolate making everyone.

(side note: as with all hobbies, I know there are associated cost of equipment, waste and energy. I am just addressing the cost of the cocoa beans vs the cost of finished chocolate.)

One Response to “Why Do Cocoa Beans Cost So Much?”

  1. A horrible learning curve: First roasted coffee 25 years ago. Others went crazy over the brew- hints of excellence but no big Whoop to me. Six months ago, I read about first and second crack on the net, and I’ve resumed roasting.

    I’ve never been a Chocoholic, just like coffee shop espresso never thrilled me.

    Time to read and learn chocolate- hoping the difference is as great as the chasm between the Vile Sludge you’re served as “coffee,” and the real thing never experienced by most people.

    Cheers – Ray Owen

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