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Mars Inc. and other companies make not-so-sweet change to popular candy bars: 'Not a decision we have taken lightly'

"May as well get used to that being a thing."

"May as well get used to that being a thing.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

It's a chocolate lover's nightmare: You take a bite of your favorite chocolate and realize that it's not chocolate at all. 

That could soon be a more common reality as cocoa prices soar to record highs, prompting chocolate makers to offer products with smaller doses of chocolate — or none at all.

Prices for chocolate have skyrocketed as the world's biggest cocoa producers in West Africa battle drought and disease, as reported by Bloomberg. This has led companies like Mars Inc. to adapt its products to a more volatile market. Last year, the company shrunk its Galaxy chocolate bar — a popular treat in the United Kingdom — by 10 grams without reducing the price. 

Meanwhile, chocolate makers are also creating products that contain less chocolate to appeal to customers in new ways. For instance, U.S.-based Hershey Co. has added Chocolate Frosted Donut to its Kit Kat bar lineup. The concoction uses a partial dip of chocolate instead of a full coating, pushing chocolate and cocoa butter further down the ingredient list, per Bloomberg. 

Bloomberg reported that more than 40% of molded and segmented chocolate bars in the U.S. are filled with other ingredients like caramel, nuts, or fruit. Carl Quash III, head of snacks and nutrition at Euromonitor International, told the publication that this trend is likely to expand due to high cocoa costs. 

Other companies are looking to replace some of the cocoa butter in their products with cheaper substitutes like palm oil (on average, a milk chocolate bar contains about 20% cocoa butter, per Bloomberg). 

While droughts have always occurred, an overheating planet is exacerbating them, making these extreme weather events more frequent, longer, and severe, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In fact, nearly a quarter of people worldwide lived under drought conditions in the past two years, and drought-driven food shortages are affecting other food products aside from chocolate. 

For instance, Sriracha hot sauce has been in short supply due to a scarcity of chili peppers resulting from persisting droughts in northern Mexico. Similarly, olive oil prices have soared due to drought and heat waves. Crawfish prices are also extra high

Scientists are scrambling to find ways to help food producers deal with heat waves, drought, and other extreme weather

For instance, a team in Japan found that dousing plants with ethanol can help them withstand drought conditions. Another group of researchers has genetically engineered plants that can survive heat waves. Researchers in Canada are even hard at work creating "super potatoes" that could survive a variety of conditions like disease and extreme weather. 

So far, many chocolate makers have passed price hikes on to their consumers, Bloomberg reported. This is a trend that Mars Inc. said it is trying to avoid.

"We have been actively trying to find ways to absorb the rising costs of raw materials and operations," a Mars Wrigley UK spokesperson said in an email, according to the publication. "Reducing the size of our products is not a decision we have taken lightly."

Meanwhile, on Reddit's r/WorldNews subreddit, one person commented, "Chocolate and coffee are not going to be affordable forever. May as well get used to that being a thing."

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