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Call us a nation of chocoholics. A little over 9 in 10 of us say we like chocolate. In fact, Americans consume over 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or 11.7 pounds per person, according to a report by Mintel, a market research firm based in London. Chocolate confectionary sales for 2003 were an estimated $14.4 billion, up 11 percent from 1998.

Just what kinds of chocolate do American consumers like? Mintel's findings show that milk chocolate takes the lead, with two-thirds of those surveyed saying they like it. Only 37 percent say the same of dark chocolate. A little over one-quarter (26 percent) say they like white chocolate. Older people tend to express a preference for dark chocolate, perhaps because it is an acquired taste or because the stronger flavor appeals to their tired out taste buds. The three most popular forms of chocolate are bars, which 93 percent of us eat, followed by portion control pieces, which include Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Kit Kat (80 percent) and popable pieces (71 percent), such as M&Ms.

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