UPDATE 1-North American Q3 cocoa grind highest since 2009 -NCA

Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:46pm EDT

NEW YORK Oct 17 (Reuters) - North American cocoa grindings jumped 8.25 percent to their highest since at least 2009 as confectioners replenished stocks to meet rising demand before the year-end festive season, data from the National Confectioners Association showed on Thursday.

Grinding, a key indicator of demand for chocolate's key ingredient, totaled 131,974 tonnes in the third quarter, up from 121,916 tonnes in the year-earlier period and 126,044 tonnes in the second quarter of this year, the data showed.

The result was in line with expectations for a rise of between 6 percent and 10 percent. The total was the highest since at least 2009 when the NCA started combining U.S., Canadian and Mexican data.

"We know business has been good in the United States, so it's not a shocker," said Nick Gentile, senior partner of commodity trading consultancy Atlantic Capital Advisors.

Even so, the news will likely add fuel to optimism about growing demand for chocolate bars.

Prices on ICE Futures U.S. hit fresh two-year highs on Thursday after data overnight revealed a double-digit percent increase in grinding in Asia.

Capacity there has soared in recent years as suppliers aim to take advantage of rising demand in emerging economies.

The pace of growth in Europe, where most of the world's grinding capacity is located and the weak euro-zone economy has crimped demand, was slower - rates rose 5 percent to 331,514 tonnes in the quarter.

Cocoa beans, when ground, yield roughly equal parts of butter and powder, which is used in cakes, biscuits and drinks.

The premiums for butter, which gives chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth texture, are now at their highest since 2005 in the United States ahead of the year-end festive season.

Eleven companies took part in the North American survey, unchanged from the second quarter.

Those included ADM Cocoa ; Barry Callebaut ; Blommer Chocolate Co; Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate Co; ECOM; Ghirardelli Chocolate Co; Guittard Chocolate Co; Hershey Co ; Mars Chocolate North America; Nestle Chocolate & Confections and World's Finest Chocolate Inc.

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