Cocoa prices experience double digit growth Strong demand from manufacturers pushed the price of cocoa up 23 per cent on the New York stock exchange, and 19 per cent in London, by the end of 2007 compared to one year earlier, according to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO). The highest prices were experienced in mid-December, when the commodity peaked at $2,131 per tonne, due in part to the workers' strike at cocoa warehouses in the Cote d'Ivoire. The ICCO also estimates that the world's current cocoa shortfall is now 55 per cent larger than previously thought - 242,000 tonnes compared with the earlier projected figure of 156,000 tonnes - while global consumption is also on the up. World cocoa consumption, as measured by grindings of cocoa beans, has grown on average 3.8 per cent each year over the last five years, and 2.5 per cent over the 2006/07 season, the organisation said. The ICCO estimates that this trend will continue over 2008, although manufacturers will have new and more exact forecasts for production and grindings for the cocoa year 2007/08 once the next bulletin is published in February. Sales stay sweet for Thorntons UK luxury chocolate manufacturer Thorntons yesterday reported sales growth of 7.6 per cent for the 14 weeks ending 12 January 2008, clearly leaving behind the poor financial performance that dogged the company in 2006. Two years ago operating profit fell from £10.4 million (€15.3m) to £7.3 million (€10.7m), blamed on consumer distaste for chocolate during the hot summer season. In yesterday's trading update the group admitted that the outlook for the retail sector is still challenging, but said that Thorntons store sales increased 2.4 per cent to £56.7 over the past 14 weeks. Franchise sales grew 10 per cent, to hit £6.2m, while sales of Thorntons products in commercial stores experienced the biggest increase - 24.9 per cent - to £16.6m. The company attributed the growth to the improvement of distribution and new product launches. "The improvements in our customer offer underpin the continued progress that we have achieved across all sales channels," said chief executive officer Mike Davies said. "We will continue to focus on product innovation, store improvements and customer service." Dunkin' Donuts teams up with Mars for promotional push Bakery and confectionery are teaming up this new year, as Dunkin' Donuts has launched a new range of chocolate treats in association with Mars. Robert Rodriguez, brand president of Dunkin' Donuts, said that the Milky Way hot chocolate and M&M doughnut had been created to "allow customers to indulge their love of chocolate." The hot chocolate contains caramel and nougat flavours "just like the classic candy bar", he added, while the topping of the new doughnut consists of mini M&MS. The chocolate-themed brand will be launched across the US this month. Dunkin Donuts operates in 50 countries worldwide with sales of $6.4bn at the end of 2006, the company said.