Cocoa processing margins have sweetened to a two-year high, spurred by a rebound in cocoa butter prices from their weakest since 2015, Barry Callebaut said, as it unveiled lower-than-expected results.

The Swiss-based group, the world’s top cocoa grinder, said that the so-called “combined ratio” – which measures the value of the cocoa processing products, butter and powder, with that of the raw beans – had risen to 3.6, from 3.4 three months ago.

The increase to the highest level in two years reflected in part the continued growth in values of cocoa powder, as used in products such as chocolate drinks and ice cream.

With many powder-based products being particularly popular in Asian markets, its price levels are often viewed as a proxy for region’s broader chocolate demand.

The ratio of powder values to raw bean costs as tripled to 1.5 times since 2014, to a 10-year high.

‘Strong chocolate consumption’

However, the recent recovery in the combined ratio has been driven too by cocoa butter, which is credited with giving chocolate products their “melt in the mouth” texture, and is relatively more popular in Western markets.

In late summer, “cocoa butter prices started to increase thanks to strong chocolate consumption in Europe and the US”, Barry Callebaut said.

It reported the ratio of butter values to prices of raw beans at some 2.1, recovering from a level below 2.0 three months before which represented the lowest in eight years.

‘Catching up on delayed volume’

Barry Callebaut, which makes chocolate on behalf of customers such as Mondelez and Nestle, revealed the analysis with results showing a decline of 6.1% to SFr360.9m in earnings for the year to the end of September, a second successive year of decline.

Revenues gained 12.3% to SFr8.09bn, backed by price rises as well as a 5.3% increase in sales volumes.

However, operating profits fell by 2.3% to SFr553.5m, falling SFr33.0m short of the level that investors had expected, depressed by a SFr76.9m hit from a salmonella outbreak in June at its Wieze factory in Belgium.

Peter Boone, the Barry Callebaut chief executive, said that the Wieze plant was running “again at normal capacity, though we will still experience an impact in the [October to-December quarter] as we are catching up on delayed volume”.

Barry Callebaut shares closed down 1.9% at SFr1,859.

The group had been scheduled to publish its results on Wednesday, but drew forward the release due to an “unforeseen event”.