Americans eat just under 20 percent of the world’s entire chocolate by value, according to a recent report from CNBC. Just how smitten are Americans with all forms of this rich and creamy confection? Let’s take a closer look at America’s long-time love affair with chocolate, along with where to find some of the country’s very best chocolate delights.
An International Round Up of Chocolate Consumption
According to estimates, Americans ate more than $18 billion worth of chocolate over the past year alone compared to approximately $14.3 billion for the entire Asia Pacific region over the same period of time. Are you thinking the difference doesn’t seem all that significant? Now consider that the U.S. population is a mere 321 million compared to more than a total of 2.6 billion for India, China and Southeast Asia combined.
Despite its impressive figures, the U.S. still trails behind several other nations when it comes to pound by pound chocolate consumption. Switzerland tops the list with residents consuming more than 20 pounds each of chocolate a year, followed by Austria and Germany at nearly 18 pounds each. In fact, the U.S. barely broke into the top 20 when it came to chocolate consumption by weight, coming in at just over nine pounds each other the course of 2015.
The takeaway? Not only do Americans love chocolate, but they love good chocolate, and they’re willing to pay more to get their fix. In fact, National Confectioner’s Association spokeswoman Susan Fussell reports, “We do see a trend towards more gourmet and premium chocolates, and it’s interesting. We see that trend really strengthening, even in a time of economic hardship.”
A Long-time American Romance
While we often think of Switzerland as the motherland of chocolate, the truth is that chocolate is also deeply rooted in American history and culture. In fact, Central and South American ancient civilizations were eating chocolate — and using it as currency — dating back at least 3,000 years. Chocolate made its way to U.S. soil more than 1,000 years ago, and the country’s first chocolate factory was opened in 1765 in Massachusetts.
Anyone who’s ever enjoyed chocolate will have no trouble comprehending its immediate immense popularity: production in the U.S. grew more quickly than in other regions of the world going on to become the beloved comfort food we know and love today. In addition to being a scrumptious staple in American households, chocolate has been sent overseas to soldiers as war-time rations and even launched into space with NASA astronauts!
But how did it get from there to here? For starters, there’s the fact that it’s delicious. But it’s even more than that. Chocolate stimulates the production of feel-good endorphins and serotonin, and may even be an aphrodisiac due to its mood elevating phenylethylamines.
Even more good news? While eating chocolate used to be associated with guilt due to ingredients like sugar and milk, chocolate has increasingly gained attention for its heart-healthiness and cancer-fighting antioxidants — giving Americans another amazing reason to indulge.
And while biting into a chocolate bar or truffle delivers a sensation like no other, chocolate also takes on numerous other indulgent incarnations. From babka pie to biscotti, chocolate makes life more delicious in an abundance of divinely delicious ways. (Did someone say Chocolate Cherry Pecan Tamales?)