Fueling the economy with chocolate cravings

Published on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:01 - Written by Christine Gardner food@tylerpaper.com

Valentine’s Day is as much a food holiday as it is about hearts, cards, jewelry and flowers.

For those in the food industry, sales of chocolate, candy, wine and champagne are higher for this holiday than any other time of year. And for chefs and restaurant owners, it is one of the busiest.

Whatever your Valentine’s plans might be — dinner in a restaurant with a loved one, family dinner at home, a box of chocolates or a bag of candy hearts — it is a day to spread love to those special people in our lives and make sure they know how much we care.

Analysts said that, on average, a couple spends $135.10 on Valentine’s Day. This total includes candy, cards, jewelry, flowers and dining out. This anticipated revenue is 3.7 percent higher than last year and shows disposable income surpassing prerecession levels for the first time.

There is also an increase in the number of single Americans, which helps drive the revenue in each of the Valentine’s Day categories. Coupled with a higher demand for premium items, such as handmade or artisanal chocolates, expect to see a 2.5 percent increase and fine dining with a promising increase of 4.1 percent in revenue.

What better way to honor your sweetie than with sweets and other edible treats. This

year when you shop for your Valentine’s Day chocolate or candy consider some of these fun facts when making a choice.

The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word, “Xocolatl”, which means “bitter water”.

The biggest bar of chocolate was made in Turin, Italy in 2000 and weighed 5,000 pounds.

Americans eat an average of 22 pounds of candy each year, or approximately 2.8 billion pounds annually which is split almost equally between chocolate and candy. Most Europeans consume far less than this.

American chocolate manufacturers use about 1.5 billion pounds of milk each year. Other top industries in milk consumption include cheese and ice cream.

Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40 percent of the world’s almonds and 20 percent of the world’s peanuts.

Flavonoids are a type of phytochemical found naturally in chocolate. Due to their unique chemical structures, flavonoids can exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cell-protective effects. Consuming foods rich in flavonoids has also been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. To reap the benefits, stick to dark chocolate. The average commercial dark chocolate contains about 60 percent cocoa and has been found to contain 536 milligrams of flavonoids per 1.4 ounce serving. Research has shown that as few as 80 milligrams of flavonoids a day can lower blood pressure.

It’s a common misconception that chocolate is packed with caffeine. An ounce of dark chocolate contains about 20 milligrams of caffeine. The same as an 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee. In comparison, a cup of regular coffee contains about 100 milligrams and a cup of tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine.

NECCO Sweethearts – or conversation hearts – were first created in 1866. Through the years, Sweethearts sayings have reflected how our country and culture has changed. For six weeks out of the year, about 100,000 pounds of the candy hearts are produced each day, which adds up to billions of candy hearts —more than enough for everyone in the world to have one.

Facts provided by IBIS World market research, Lindt Chocolate and NECCO candy.