Chocoholics across the Middle East are set to drive global sales of the sweet stuff in the next five years, outpacing the growth in other parts of the world.
Retail chocolate sales in the Middle East and North Africa will reach US$5.8 billion (Dh21.3bn) in 2016, up 61 per cent from today, according to the global audit firm KPMG.
"Although the global market is still dominated by Western Europe and North America, emerging markets clearly represent the future," a KPMG report said.
Last year, the Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - accounted for 55 per cent of the growth in the chocolate market, and in the UAE, the melting pot of nationalities is ensuring huge increases in sales each year.
The UAE market is estimated to be worth about Dh546 million and growing at a rate of 27 per cent in terms of value of sales and 14 per cent in terms of volume, according to an AC Nielson report.
That level of growth is higher than in India, China, Russia and Mexico, according to figures compiled by KPMG.
"Many companies are battling to stay on top of a rapidly shifting marketplace," said John Morris, the head of European consumer markets, in his report. "Taste is diverging, as fast-growing economies and empowered consumers demand more from their products."
A number of foreign and local companies have launched new chocolate brands in the UAE this year, all aiming to wrap up tasty sales.
Colors Touch, an Emirati lifestyle and fashion venture, recently diversified its business, rolling out a brand called Choco Laty. It combines local products, such as dates, with Belgian chocolate.
In the third quarter of this year, Butlers Chocolates, the luxury Irish chocolate maker, is expected to open chocolate cafes across the UAE, in a deal with Prime Hospitality. And in February, the food and confectionary giant Mars announced an initial investment of $60m in a new chocolate facility in Saudi Arabia, with an additional $150m planned for the next 10 years in the kingdom.
But despite the growth in chocolate sales predicted in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America remain the biggest chocolate consuming regions of the world.
Western Europe accounts for 32 per cent of global chocolate demand followed by North America at 20 per cent.
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