Imported chocolate has made itself known - and tasted - in the US market. The recession, US demographics, and a strong dollar (which makes all imports less costly for Americans to buy) have helped put more European chocolate on the candy counter - despite its higher cost.
A number of factors combine to make European chocolate more expensive than its US counterpart.
European-style chocolate manufacturing is more costly than the American process. For example, Cailler, which is made in Switzerland and distributed by Nestle, ''conches,'' or grinds, the chocolate for five days with big stones that move back and forth in a small vat. This, says Eric Whiteway, representative for Nestle Imports, makes the chocolate smoother, less grainy than American chocolates. (Cailler costs between $18 and $20 a pound compared with Russell Stover, which runs about $4.95).
Shipping and storage costs also are much higher. Because European chocolates do not have a melt-resistant ingredient that US manufacturers add, they must be transported and stored in refrigerated display cases. (At $9 a pound the biggest-selling chocolate in Europe, Mon Cheri, is relatively inexpensive. But it is not sold during summer because of the problems with melting.)
Finally, because imported chocolates are costly to store and display, retailers buy in small quantities and don't get lower bulk prices.