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Sweet Tooth Still Sour: Chocolate Makers Look For Foothold In China

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A shop assistant displays a "Do It Yourself" chocolate gift box at a gift shop in Qindao, Shandong province of China. Despite differences in diet preferences, more Chinese are acquiring a taste for premium chocolate, a potentially sweet development for the global economy. (credit: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

A shop assistant displays a “Do It Yourself” chocolate gift box at a gift shop in Qindao, Shandong province of China. Despite differences in diet preferences, more Chinese are acquiring a taste for premium chocolate, a potentially sweet development for the global economy. (credit: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — When it comes to sweets, Americans may not consider the occasional candy bar a luxury, but the same can’t be said for our counterparts in the Far East.

Chocolate makers in Switzerland and throughout the world are pinning their future revenue hopes on China — despite any indication of a sweet tooth in the soon-to-be-number-one market in the world.

Marketwatch’s Jim Jelter told KFWB 980’s Maggie McKay traditionally speaking, the Chinese simply do not enjoy chocolate the way Westerners do.

“It’s a cultural thing,” said Jelter. “It’s never been a big part of their diet…chocolate has no history, really, in China.”

In America and much of Europe, however, chocolate is a way of life.

Led by Switzerland and Germany, an overwhelming 16 of the top 20 consuming countries in the world are European, while across the pond, Americans consume an estimated 3 billion pounds of chocolate every year.

But as the booming economy in China drives the demand for high-end consumer goods, more chocolate makers are hoping to gain a foothold in the country.

“The Chinese — for the first time, really, in their lifetime — have money to go out and afford little luxuries,” said Jelter.

In 2010, China only accounted for less than one percent — $976 million — of the estimated $83 billion global chocolate market, up sharply from $633 million in 2008.

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