* N. American cocoa grind up 4.4 pct in Q4 - NCA
* U.S. 2013 cocoa grind highest on record - analyst
By Marcy Nicholson
NEW YORK, Jan 16 North American cocoa bean
grindings rose by 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter and
processing for the full year grew at its fastest pace in three
years, data showed on Thursday, reinforcing confidence about
chocolate demand in 2014.
The rising amount of cocoa processing was driven by
increased interest in butter, a byproduct of grinding beans that
gives chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth texture, while powder
sales lagged, dealers said.
The grind data, a traditional gauge of demand for
chocolate's key ingredient, climbed to 125,332 tonnes, up 4.37
percent from the fourth quarter of 2012, National Confectioners
Association (NCA) data showed.
That was slightly below the estimated 5 percent to 7.4
percent rise. One U.S. trader said most
forecasts were at the upper end of the range around 7 percent.
On the surface that could be bearish, but it was the fifth
straight quarter of gains and the total was the highest for the
fourth quarter in North America since at least 2009, when the
NCA first added Canadian and Mexican to its data.
"It's still showing growth in the market here," the trader
The slower-than-expected rate may indicate that some
grinders curbed processing capacity to deal with a slump in
For the full-year North American grindings rose 7.5 percent
to 509,237 tonnes from 2012, the fastest pace of growth in three
"By my estimates that's the highest grind we've ever had in
the United States," said Steven Haws of Commodities Risk
Analysis based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, referring to the
total 2013 grinding figure.
The United States is the world's No. 1 chocolate consumer.
Earlier this week, luxury chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli
forecast double-digit sales growth in North America
this year and Barry Callebaut, which makes chocolate
for the likes of Nestle and Mondelez, said
consumers in the Americas were flocking to premium chocolates.
U.S. Halloween chocolate sales in October, the biggest U.S.
chocolate-selling holiday, were surprisingly strong at 5.5
percent higher than 2012 versus the expectation for a 1 percent
Firm demand was also seen in Europe, the world's biggest
cocoa processing region, where the fourth-quarter grind jumped
6.2 percent to 348,406 tonnes, approaching the record for the
same period in 2009 at 351,316 tonnes.
Cocoa grinding in Malaysia moved in the other direction,
falling 9 percent to 70,064 tonnes in the quarter and 4.6
percent to 285,608 tonnes in 2013, data showed Wednesday.
The NCA revised fourth-quarter 2012 grinding volume to
120,085 tonnes from 120,053 tonnes.
The 11 companies that took part in the North American survey
are: 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.