* North American grind at top end of expectations
* Data signals recovery, better than Europe
NEW YORK Jan 17 North American cocoa grindings
rose 0.95 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 to 120,053
tonnes, the region's first increase in a year, data from the
National Confectioners Association said on Thursday.
The results, seen as a gauge of demand for chocolate's key
ingredient, are at the top end of estimates that pegged the
grind anywhere from 5 percent lower to 1 percent higher.
The recovery after three quarterly drops was also
significantly better than Europe, which processed two-and-a-half
times more beans than North America but reported a 6.2-percent
Data earlier this week showed grinding there fell to nearly
328,000 tonnes on sluggish demand as chocolate makers worked off
In Asia, demand has grown as an emerging middle class eats
more chocolate biscuits and drinks. The new burst of consumption
has helped to offset weakness in the mature European and North
The aggregate number of plants reporting in Canada, the
United States and Mexico was unchanged at 17, the NCA said.
Survey respondents in North America included chocolate
makers Barry Callebaut USA, Hershey Co, Nestle
Chocolate & Confections, ADM Cocoa, The
Blommer Chocolate Co and Mars Chocolate North America.
The fourth-quarter data comes ahead of Valentine's Day and
Easter celebrations, two of the biggest events in the chocolate