NEW YORK — The resiliency of the U.S. chocolate market was demonstrated during 2009 when sales for chocolate products rose to about $17 billion even as prices moved higher, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts in its new report “Chocolate market in the U.S.: Trends and opportunities in premium, gourmet and mass chocolate products.” The sales growth was attributed to the 75% of Americans who have purchased chocolate products since 2008 and increases in manufacturer prices, which didn’t appear to discourage consumers from purchasing products.

“For many chocolate-loving Americans it’s more about the experience than it is about mere consumption,” said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. “To meet this demand, premium chocolatiers are setting off on culinary adventures, discovering new layers of flavor and textures by experimenting with umami flavors or developing products to match consumers’ moods. This may be a mature market, but it’s also a market that isn’t afraid to innovate, whether that means using savory influences such as bacon and cheese or ethnic flavors such as curry and chipotle. This bold creativity effectively provides chocolate products that satisfy diverse consumer palates at reasonable prices.”

Packaged Facts forecasts the U.S. chocolate market will exceed $19 billion in sales by 2014. The research firm said the demand for premium chocolate products will increase as the economy recovers, and that the “healthy chocolate trend” featuring ingredients such as lavender and blueberry is expected to generate additional market sales as a subset of the premium trend.