The rise in the price of food, rent, and utilities has impacted many residents. But for Carla Johnson, a local chocolatier - there is another foodstuff that has risen in price that has made it difficult for her business - the price of chocolate.

Johnson, who owns and runs Treats by Carla, a business specializing in gluten-free chocolates, said that since she began her business in 2016, she has noticed a sharp rise in the price of the Belgian chocolate she buys to make her treats.

"I'm [paying] easily 25 per cent more than I did back then, but most of the increase has happened in the last year," she said.

Johnson's observation is not anecdotal. According to various reports, the price of cocoa has been rising. According to the website Trading Economics, cocoa stock prices have been on the rise for the past several months. March 20, saw one of the largest price spikes in cocoa stock price.

"Cocoa futures resumed their upward trend to breach 8,400 per pound, a new historic high, due to lingering concerns about tight cocoa supplies from West Africa," the website stated on Wednesday. 

The price spike has meant that Johnson, like many small business owners, has had to raise the prices of her products. Although Johnson said that her customers have not queried her about her higher prices, she has seen a downturn. She said that some of the biggest holidays this year, including Christmas and Valentine's Day, saw very few orders.

"I've seen a huge drop in the number of new customers and the amount of money that those regular customers are spending in the last year and a half to two years. This past Christmas, I only had half of what I did from the year before. With Easter, I have maybe a quarter of the orders I normally have."

But it's not just the prices of chocolate that are a factor. Johnson said that when she initially began her business, in the hopes of offering gluten-free treats to those who have celiac disease, like her, there were few options in larger grocery stores. Today, there are many options and they are cheaper, something Johnson says is difficult to compete with. And then there's the closure of brick-and-mortar stores to which Johnson previously sold her products.

"At least half the stores I was selling to, two years ago, have closed their doors," she added.

When asked if COVID-19 has also been a burden on her business, she said that surprisingly, during the pandemic, her business flourished. 

Today Johnson has gone back to working another job and has shelved the prospect of her chocolate business being her sole career. She said that although she hopes that one day she may be able to be a full-time chocolatier, she added that thus far none of the ingredients she buys have gone down to their original prices, before inflation.

"I realized after many years of not only not making a profit, but seeing a loss, that I can't; I just have to make ends meet, [so I'm] working for someone else," she said. 

In its Consumer Price Index for February 2024, Statistics Canada cited that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.8 per cent on a year-over-year basis in February, but was down from a 2.9 per cent gain in January. 

"While price growth for groceries has been slowing, prices continue to increase and remain elevated. From February 2021 to February 2024, prices for food purchased from stores increased 21.6 per cent," the report stated.

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