Prices of Chocolate, Olive Oil Products Rise; Harvests Hit Hard by Unseasonable Weather

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prices of chocolate products, as seen in this photo taken at a store in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, on Friday, are soaring.

The cost of raw materials has been soaring due to unseasonable weather overseas, leading to the prices of products such as chocolate and olive oil to continue rising. Combined with rising costs of labor and logistics, a heavy burden has been placed on the consumer.

Meiji Co. announced Friday that it will raise the prices of a total of 67 products, including chocolate confections “Kinoko no Yama” and “Takenoko no Sato,” as well as retort-pouch curry, starting on March 26. Four chocolate products will be reduced in content, with their prices effectively being raised.

The factory prices of nine products, including retort-pouch curry and soup products, will be raised by about 8% to 17% on April 1. The prices of 54 chocolate and gummi products will be raised by 3% to 33%, on June 1.

This is the first price increase for chocolate products since last October. Meiji had long taken a stance of being reluctant to raise prices, but it started to pass the increased cost of producing its products onto consumers. The rationale behind this is the soaring price of cocoa beans, the raw material for chocolate.

In Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, the main cocoa bean-producing countries, cocoa growers have been hit by seriously poor harvests due to unseasonable weather.

The cocoa futures in London, used as the global benchmark for the price of cocoa, stood at £6,000 per ton in mid-March, three times higher than the level posted in the same month last year.

A trading company official pointed out that makers of chocolate products cannot fully absorb the rising costs and will be forced into raising prices further.

Olive oil import prices have also been soaring due to a spell of drought in Spain and other countries where olives, the main raw material for olive oil, are produced.

Major cooking oil manufacturers, including Nisshin Oillio Group, Ltd. and J-Oil Mills, Inc., plan to raise prices for commercial use by up to 80%, starting in May.

In February, Saizeriya Co., operator of a leading Italian restaurant chain, raised the price of “extra virgin olive oil” (500 ml) sold at its stores from ¥850 to ¥1,200, including tax.

A supermarket store official commented: “There are even such moves among consumers as stocking up on olive oil before the expected price increase. If the price increase continues, we will have no choice but to expand the production areas of our suppliers.”