The top four countries responsible for the production of chocolate are the United States, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium. It is estimated that, while Western Europe accounts for approximately 35% of total world chocolate production, the U.S. accounts for an additional 30%. Interestingly, none of the major producers of chocolate are major sources of cocoa, and none of the major cocoa-producing countries are major chocolate manufacturing centers.

There's no real reason that European countries are among the world's leading chocolate manufacturers other than the popularity of chocolate in Europe since its introduction. The U.S. inherited its love of chocolate through its European immigrants, and companies such as Mars Inc. and the Hershey Foods Corporation sprang up to take advantage of consumer demand.

1) The United States

The U.S. is one of the top producers of high-quality chocolates, with U.S. chocolate manufacturers bringing in over $20 billion annually in retail sales. The largest chocolate company in North America—and one of the most recognized chocolate brands worldwide—is the Hershey Foods Corporation, more commonly known as Hershey’s. The company is headquartered in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and it was founded in 1894 by Milton S. Hershey.

Key Takeaways

  • While 35% of chocolate production takes place in Europe, the United States produces almost 30%.
  • Hershey's is the largest chocolate producer in the United States, while New York City is home to many famous chocolate shops.
  • Switzerland started making chocolate in the 17th century and the Swiss are the largest consumers of chocolate per capita.
  • Belgium is one of the largest producers and much of the chocolate is still made largely by hand.
  • Two-thirds of the cocoa used in making chocolate is from West Africa.

Most corporations engaged in the manufacture of chocolate in the U.S. and elsewhere purchase their cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast in Western Africa. The home ground for specialty chocolate shops in the U.S. is New York City. Famous shops in the city include the Chocolate Bar, MarieBelle, Li-Lac, and Richart Design et Chocolat. San Francisco is also home to a significant number of famous chocolate shops, and it is a substantial center of U.S. chocolate production.

2) Germany

German chocolate manufacturers represent nearly a $10 billion per year industry. Cologne is often regarded as the chocolate capital of Germany. Chocolate shops in the U.S. often import chocolates from the city to sell alongside U.S. chocolate brands. Stollwerck Chocolates Company is one of the most famous chocolate manufacturers in the country; it also has production plants in Belgium and Switzerland. Other famous chocolate brands in Germany include La Maison du Chocolat, Tortchen, and Leonidas Chocolates.

3) Switzerland

Switzerland is well-known for its chocolates and principal chocolate manufacturers. The production of chocolate is an important source of wealth for the country. Zurich is often considered the foundation for the country’s chocolate production. World-renowned chocolate brands that originated in Switzerland include Nestle, Toblerone, Lindt, and Sprungli.

Chocolate production in Switzerland dates as far back as the 17th century. From the 19th century forward, until the end of World War II, the Swiss chocolate industry was heavily export-oriented. Today, the Swiss are the largest consumers of the chocolate produced within their own country. In 2000, approximately 54% of the country's chocolate was consumed by the Swiss. Switzerland also has the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption in the world, which is nearly 30 pounds every year. Total annual revenue from chocolate sales is estimated to be $14 billion.

4) Belgium

Belgium is also world-renowned for its chocolates, and it is a major chocolate manufacturing center. There are approximately 15 chocolate factories and more than 2,000 chocolate shops in Belgium. One of the most famous chocolate companies in the world, Godiva, makes its home in Brussels. Belgian chocolatiers generate annual sales of approximately $12 billion.

Since 1884, the composition of Belgian chocolate has been regulated by law. To ensure the purity of the chocolate and to prevent reliance on low-quality fat from outside sources, Belgian law mandates that a minimum of 35% pure cocoa must be used in production. The craft of producing chocolate, and the country's pride in the production process and resulting product, leads the industry to adhere to traditional manufacturing techniques. This includes a ban on artificial, vegetable, or palm oil-based fats in all products that carry a "Belgian chocolate" label. A significant portion of the chocolate firms in Belgium produces chocolates largely by hand, without the aid of modern production equipment.

Cocoa Beans

Cocoa beans are the primary ingredient in the production of chocolate and West Africa produces approximately two-thirds of the world's cocoa beans. Nearly 45% of that cocoa bean production is sourced from the Ivory Coast. The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) reports that somewhere around 50 million individuals depend on cocoa production and the cocoa industry as a source of livelihood.

Nestle, along with several other chocolate companies, formed the WCF in 2000, largely to address issues that affect cocoa farmers and stabilize cocoa production. Among the stated objectives of the foundation are increased cocoa farmers' income, the establishment of environmental programs, and encouraging the use of sustainable farming techniques.