The market for premium chocolate is forecast to reach US$2.9bn in 2008 as consumers look to luxury chocolate to offer indulgence and enjoyment. Lindt & Sprungli exceeded expectations last year by capitalising on this trend, and the use of dark chocolate in its products may also prove beneficial, enabling it to tap into both the luxury and health-motivated audiences.

Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Sprungli beat forecasts to reach sales of $1.7bn and achieve its highest ever sales growth rate last year. According to the company, "the financial year was a success in practically every respect with the premium segment experiencing exceptionally strong growth."

Lindt is capitalising on consumers' growing desire for luxury chocolates, part of a growing trend that has seen quality and indulgence valued ever more highly. Changes in consumer behaviour, lifestyles and needs are impacting the chocolate market and driving the premium segment. Consumers feel they have added time pressures with subsequent stress levels leading them to trade up and gain comfort and enjoyment through indulgent, luxury items such as chocolates.

On the back this, Lindt has gained market share from ordinary chocolate brands such as Cadbury. The European market for premium chocolate is forecast to grow by 13% over the next four years and is expected to be worth $2.9bn come 2008.

While growing health awareness among consumers is influencing their purchase behaviour, taste remains the dominant influence on product choice as consumers are not prepared to sacrifice sensory benefits for added health advantages. However luxury chocolate has the advantage of being perceived to be of a higher quality than mainstream chocolate. Dark chocolate especially has a healthier perception among consumers as it contains more cocoa, less fat and fewer additives.

Such is the nature of the trend, Lindt looks set to continue its good performance during 2005. The increasing health awareness combined with the lifestyle pressures on today's consumer may both combine to benefit the company in contrasting ways, and increased brand exposure could then lead to a virtuous circle of growth.

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