According to a report from Packaged Facts, the gourmet chocolate market in the US will rise to US$1.8bn by 2010.
 
The report, Gourmet Chocolate in the US, showed that gourmet chocolate sales rose by 20.2% in 2005 over 2004, and that seasonal sales tracked through major retailers accounted for around 29% of sales.
 
The Packaged Facts report forecasts that overall gourmet chocolate sales will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 6.4% over the next four years.
 
The higher margins offered by the gourmet chocolate sector have attracted larger chocolate manufacturers, many of whom have introduced their own successful premium brands or acquired smaller, well-known gourmet manufacturers during recent years. The entry of major corporations into the gourmet sector, which has historically been the preserve of smaller, mainly European companies, has been instrumental in introducing gourmet chocolate to the mass-market, the report says.
 
"Gourmet chocolates have come out of the closet and are showing some muscle in the mass market arena with exceptional branding that is making gourmet indulgence a household phenomenon," said Don Montuori, the publisher of Packaged Facts. "Higher cocoa content, the health benefits associated with chocolate, and the introduction of organics, 'single origin chocolates', and exotic flavours, such as grapefruit and habaneras, are having a major impact on this industry, helping it grow more quickly than standard chocolate."