Cacao is about half fat, making it a heavy ingredient to transport. People who make chocolate from bean to bar almost always need to source their cacao from another country, and there are three ways cocoa beans get to chocolate makers: by sea, by land, and by air.
Small-batch chocolate makers usually source their cacao from a domestic supplier, which imports cacao from other countries, most commonly by cargo ship. That cacao is then shipped to chocolate makers, often in a large truck. For small orders in large countries, like the US, cacao may be sent by air.
Larger chocolate makers may still work with a cacao importer, but some choose to import the cacao themselves, often by cargo ship (though it’s sometimes done by canoe, as with Luisa Abram from Brazil). Chocolate manufacturers like Mars and Cargill buy their cacao on the mass market and often store it on-site. In proper conditions, cacao can be stored safely for many years. Chocolate makers in cocoa growing countries, like Marou Chocolate, most often buy their cacao directly from farmers and have it driven to them from the farm. Some small-batch chocolate makers have also been known to visit farms themselves and buy directly from farmers, taking their cacao back home in their checked luggage.