While regular favorites remain the most popular choices, with almost 80 percent of Americans opting for milk, dark or white chocolate, consumers have started letting out feelers to explore other chocolate varieties, says the survey.
The findings reveal that the chocolate industry is no exception to a general consumer move towards new, more 'exotic' products, pointing once more to the importance of innovation from manufacturers.
Conducted by research bureau IPSOS on behalf of Barry Callebaut, the survey reveals that 38 percent of Americans say they eat 'single-origin' chocolate, or chocolate made from cocoa beans from a specific region instead of using a blend of beans from different origins. This compares to just 11 percent of European consumers who opt for this variety.
Almost a quarter of Americans also say they buy sugar-free chocolate, and 15 percent report having consumed fairtrade chocolate.
Around four in ten consumers say they would buy chocolate that promises health benefits, and almost half of those surveyed said they'd be willing to pay the extra price for 'health enhancing chocolate'.
Currently, only 12 percent of consumers eat functional chocolate - or chocolate that has been shown to provide health benefits. But the 'healthful' image of chocolate in peoples' minds seems to be more widespread: survey respondents agreed that chocolate boosts morale (52 percent), revitalizes you (46 percent), is good for the heart and the cardiovascular system (31 percent), contains anti-cancerous ingredients (31 percent), enhances memory (16 percent), enhances sexual performance (15 percent), and helps prevent hair loss (5 percent).
The survey was based on telephone interviews of 1,000 American adults, conducted in March 2007. A similar European survey, again conducted by IPSOS on behalf of Barry Callebaut, took place in November and December 2006.
Barry Callebaut, which sells both cocoa ingredients to industry but also branded chocolate products at retail, claims it is focusing on research and development efforts to bring innovation to its customers to help them meet growing consumer expectations.
The group's survey, announced last week, found that nearly half of Americans eat chocolate at least a few times per week. Milk chocolate remains the favorite option, chosen by over 80 percent of survey respondents in the US, compared to 58 percent of European respondents.
Some 70 percent of US consumers said they also eat chocolate with nuts, raisins or nougat; dark chocolate is chosen by 64 percent of Americans; some 54 percent also eat chocolate with a soft praline, fruit or crème filling; and 50 percent also opt for white chocolate.