Chocolate sales stay sweet in recessionary economy

NEW YORK Retail sales of chocolate products increased 3% from 2008 to a record $17 billion in 2009, according to a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts titled "Chocolate Market in the U.S.: Trends and Opportunities in Premium, Gourmet and Mass Chocolate Products."

The growth was attributed to the 75% of Americans who have purchased chocolate products since 2008 and the increases in manufacturer prices.

"For many chocolate-loving Americans, it's more about the experience than it is about mere consumption," said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "This may be a mature market, but it's also a market that isn't afraid to innovate, whether that means using savory influences, such as bacon and cheese, or ethnic flavors, such as curry and chipotle. This bold creativity effectively provides chocolate products that satisfy diverse consumer palates at reasonable prices."

Global demand for chocolate is expected to increase over the next several years, and Packaged Facts forecasted the U.S. chocolate market will exceed $19 billion in 2014. Also expected to fuel the market is the healthy chocolate trend, featuring such better-for-you ingredients as lavender and blueberry, and creativity and innovation in flavor combinations and new products.