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US cocoa consumption currently stands at around three billion pounds per annum, but is actually less per capita than is commonly seen in Europe.

A primary ingredient in the production of chocolate - a delicacy enjoyed around the world - cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sometimes oil are the main constituents of all chocolates, with proportions varying dependent upon the type and quality being manufactured.

Prices for this global commodity are seasonally affected, as demand is often higher in winter periods, with the world's top producers - the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and Cameroon - making up 70 per cent of annual yields of the commodity.

Factors which can have a significant impact on US cocoa prices include national conflict in major producing countries - such as the civil war in the Ivory Coast, which resulted in a drop in production in 2002 - as well as environmental issues, such as soil erosion, drought and disease.

Demand for chocolate - as measured by global consumption - rose by 20 per cent between 2002 and 2007. This was coupled with crop shortages during the year, resulting in the commodity almost doubling in value over the 12 months.

In addition, demand for chocolate products is growing in burgeoning economies, such as India and China, as the product is seen as a luxury item. As worker wages and affluence in these countries grows, so does their appetite for chocolate, further increasing demand for the constituent commodities in its production.

It is traded on the InterContinental Exchange and NYSE Euronext indices, with cocoa being the world's smallest soft commodity market.

Future prices for US cocoa are determined by multiplying the bean price by a ratio of 3.5 on average, which provides investors with a forecast of whether cocoa production is likely to be economical over the coming months.

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Exchange: ICE
Minimum spreads (pips): 8
Margin Requirements: 10%
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