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Chocolate's many roles

Chocolate and Valentine's Day go hand in hand.

Susan Smith of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in McLean, Va., says Americans consumed 2.8-billion pounds in 1990. From 1985 to 1990, per capita consumption rose from 8.5 to 11.2 pounds.

According to Jacobs Suchard International, importers of Toblerone Swiss chocolate and other European brands, chocolate is primarily an adult pleasure. Chocoholics fall into the 18- to 49-year old age group, the company says, and the majority of these are between 25 and 39.

Chris Long, marketing manager, says there are several reasons chocolate is popular with adults: It bridges the hunger gap between lunch and dinner and helps fulfill a psychological need to "feel good."

Social conditioning is also another factor. From childhood onward, chocolate is a reward for good behavior, a gift on special occasions, an after-school treat and a midnight snack.

"For true chocoholics," Long says, "eating chocolate is a luxurious pastime, something to be savored with each delectable bite. The chocolate experience appeals to virtually all the senses."

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