Valentine’s Day and chocolates, a love story well told

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Washington / Bloomberg

It’s Valentine’s Day today, and Americans will buy $1.1 billion of confectionery to mark the occasion, according to data from the Washington-based National Confectioners Association.
That’s up 2.6 percent from last year and the most since at least 2011. About three-quarters of that will be chocolate.
The volume of US retail chocolate sales is expected to drop 0.6 percent to 1.37 million tonnes this year, according to market research company Euromonitor International, down from 1.7 million tons in 2006. To counter this trend, and offset rising cocoa costs, manufacturers such as Hershey Co., Mars Inc. and Lindt & Spruengli AG are pushing pricier, premium chocolate.
In the five years to 2015, US sales of plain dark chocolate bars rose 35 percent to $618.9 million, compared with a 16 percent increase for plain milk chocolate, according to Euromonitor. Some consumers are also opting for dark chocolate because of its perceived health benefits, according to the National Confectioners Association.
When it comes to chocolate consumption, Americans ranked joint 19th in 2015, Euromonitor says. The average person in the US ingested 4.3 kilograms (9.5 pounds) last year, while the chocolate-guzzling crown went to the Swiss, each of whom ate 9.1 kilograms on average. There’s little prospect of these numbers going much higher. “People are already eating an awful lot of chocolate, and it’s a pretty saturated market,” said Jack Skelly, a Euromonitor analyst in London.
More than 400,000 US jobs —in industries including agriculture, retail and transportation — rely at least in part on the confectionery business, according to the National Confectioners Association. Manufacturers of chocolate, candy, gum and mints directly employ 55,000. The biggest concentration of chocolate-related jobs can be found in a county in Pennsylvania — no surprise, perhaps, given that the
Keystone State is home to Hershey.

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