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Making it Rain...Chocolate

"It seems to be a good time to be a chocolatier," a trade publication devoted to the candy industry recently reported.

In fact, according to the article, chocolate sales were up 24% from 2008 to 2013 and are expected to climb another 14% from 2014 to 2018.

Combine this blistering sales pace with flat sugar prices and recent announcements by Mars and Hershey that they are increasing candy prices, and it is a recipe for big profits.

It's also a recipe for expansions and mega mergers within the industry.

Take, for example, the July acquisition of Russell Stover Candies Inc. by Swiss confectioner Lindt. This deal, believed to be worth approximately $1.5 billion, makes Lindt the third biggest chocolate maker in North America, behind Hershey and Mars.

Of course, Lindt wasn't done. A couple weeks later the company purchased a 400,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Pennsylvania - its third major facility in the United States.

Fast forward to September and another major chocolate play was announced. This time, it was Cargill picking up ADM's chocolate business for $440 million.

You don't have to be big to be profitable in chocolate these days, either.

Whether it's the boutique chocolate shop in West Palm Beach expanding, the niche Australian chocolatier seeking a foothold in America, or a Nevada entrepreneur living a dream, the past six weeks have just added to the heaps of good news seen by confectioners over the past year.

It's a record to be proud of for sure, and one that confectioners should embrace when lobbying Capitol Hill instead of crying poverty and complaining about U.S. sugar policy.

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