"We expect that the trend towards high-end products, especially those touting wellness benefits, will be the life force in this market for the next several years," said Tatjana Meerman, publisher of the report 'The U.S. Market for Chocolate'. Overall chocolate sales are predicted to reach $18bn (€13.2bn) by 2011, up from $16bn (€11.7bn) in 2006, she said, helped by the market share for premium chocolate escalating from 13 per cent of the total market in 2002 to nearly 17 per cent in 2006. By 2011, premium chocolate will account for 25 per cent of the market, generating $4.5bn (€3.3bn) in sales, she added. The report concluded that the reason for this growth is the reported health benefits of dark chocolate, as well as a shift in consumer interest towards 'luxury' products, including organic and fair trade products. However, sales of sugar-free, diet, gift and novelty chocolates fell in 2006. "Even categories such as gift box chocolates saw a notable decline in the last year," Meerman explained. Several chocolate companies in the US have now embraced the health and wellness trend, with Barry Callebaut last month releasing nine new ingredients on the market that target the demand for functional foods. The company said it will be the first to launch chocolate with probiotics in order to strengthen the immune system, and to improve the nutritional profile of its chocolate by reducing and balancing sugar and fat. A study by Leatherhead Foods in June said the overall market for health products in the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Australia was worth a total of $66bn (€49bn) last year. The study said the best sectoral growth is predicted for the relatively undeveloped bakery and snacks and prepared foods markets.