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Why is everyone so sweet on chocolate?

Cadbury's Dairy Milk Chocolate bars move down the production line at the Cadbury's Bournville production plant in Birmingham, England.

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Kai Ryssdal: If you've been listening to this program, or reading the business pages, you have no doubt heard about the various firms that are trying to buy the candy maker Cadbury. Kraft's $17-billion bid was too low for the British company, also too high for Kraft's biggest shareholder Warren Buffett. He said ixnay to the eel-day. So Cadbury board members have reportedly started talking to the folks at Hershey, I imagine trying to gin up a counter-offer there.

Now I like a good candy bar as much as the next guy. But this does seem like a whole lot of fuss about chocolate. Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson explains all that maneuvering is not as crazy as it sounds.


JEREMY HOBSON: We may be cutting back on houses, cars, electronics and eating out. But chocolate appears to be totally recession proof. The market research firm Mintel says Americans bought about 2.5 percent more chocolate in 2009 than they did in 2008.

MARCIA MOGELONSKY: Chocolate provides a certain comfort, even when times are bad.

Marcia Mogelonsky is a global food and drink analyst at Mintel. She says the real growth is overseas. In India, for instance, chocolate sales grew almost 17 percent as the world plunged into the economic slump.

MOGELONSKY: You know you wouldn't think of India as a great chocolate country because of the temperature. Chocolate will melt. You can't have it in the corner store. But what's been happening as the Indian economy develops, there's been a growing network of air-conditioned malls opening up across India. And in those air-conditioned malls, you can sell chocolate.

Keeping chocolate cool is not a problem right now here in frigid New York City. I stopped by a chocolate store in Rockefeller Center, and found Evelyn McGrath ogling the window display. She says she's making less money now, but still eats chocolate every other day.

EVELYN MCGRATH: I don't know, I just really like chocolate. I like dark chocolate a lot, and they say that it's healthier for you. If you can eat like the 60 percent dark chocolate like at least once a day, it's better for your heart or something.

Ahh, the things we tell ourselves.

Kenise Scoop's not making any excuses. She admits despite the recession, her chocolate-buying habits haven't changed.

KENISE SCOOP: No, they probably should have, but they haven't.

Hobson: Still buying the same amount?

Scoop: Possibly more, actually.

Scoop's in good company. Mintel reports chocolate has become a substitute for other items in this recession. As in, forget the diamonds for Valentine's Day, how about a heart-shaped box of chocolate truffles instead?

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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