Chocolate, produced from seeds of the cacao tree Theobroma cacao, is one of the most popular flavors in the world, with sales around 100$ billion dollars per year. Yet, as worldwide demand increases, there are fears the industry will fail to cope with growing public hunger for the product. The main problem, common to many crops, is the lack of genetic variation in cultivated cacao, which makes it vulnerable to pests and blights. Lack of genetic variation also puts cacao trees at risk from climate change, jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the industry.
Now, however, new research suggests the cacao tree is much older than previously realised — and may have close relations capable of sustaining our sweet-toothed appetites.