The consumption of chocolate in Russia is expected to leap by nearly a third over the next four years.

The estimate comes from the Swiss chocolate company Barry Callebaut AG in an interview with the Vedomosti business daily.

The company’s CEO Patrick De Maeseneire said that the average Russian currently eats 4.4 kilograms of chocolate a year, but this will rise to 5.8 kilograms by 2011.

In September, the company set a target of trebling sales in Russia within three years after opening a EUR25m (US$34.9m) factory south of Moscow.

The Swiss chocolate producer unveiled the site in the town of Chekhov, 60km south of Moscow.

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The company’s sales quadrupled between 2000 and 2005 and it hopes the new facility will further accelerate that growth.

Callebaut CEO Patrick De Maeseneire said: “Russia will be our key target market in Eastern Europe. Russian consumers love chocolate. With a per capita chocolate consumption of 4.4kg a year, Russian consumers eat more chocolate than people in France, which is a traditional chocolate country.”