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    Nestle To Add Premium Dark Chocolate Items

    High-quality treats globally accepted, company says.

    Nestle SA will focus on premium products as aging populations boost the demand for darker chocolates, according to the company's head of chocolate operations, Petraea Heynike.

    "Dark chocolate is a still-accelerating trend. Even countries which have no dark chocolate tradition are successfully introducing such products," Heynike told Dow Jones Newswires.

    "Premiumization, the move towards refined chocolate, is another important trend. In our strengthened focus on premium, we want to increase our use of high-quality raw materials and production methods," she added.

    In the global chocolate market, worth about $90.37 billion and growing 5 percent annually, Nestle takes the number-two position with a market share of approximately 12.5 percent, second to Mars Inc. with 14.8 percent.

    Nestle is the global leader in dark chocolate, and has rolled out more than 200 new chocolate products in the past few years, Heynike told the news service.

    Recent moves to push into the premium segment include the inauguration of Nestle's first premium chocolate research center in western Switzerland, and a pact with Belgian luxury chocolate company Pierre Marcolini. Under the agreement, Nestle will receive creative input from Pierre Marcolini while helping the Belgian company to expand.

    However, Nestle remains underrepresented in the top price segment, where annual growth rates range between 7 percent and 8 percent.

    Heynike didn't comment on whether Nestle's premium chocolate strategy could involve takeovers or a launch of a global premium brand.

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