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Lindt to boost U.S. chocolate output; sees first China sales from U.S

Packages of Diva chocolate truffles of Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli are displayed during the company's annual news conference in Kilc
Packages of Diva chocolate truffles of Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli are displayed during the company's annual news conference in Kilc

By Marcy Nicholson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rising demand for premium chocolate has spurred Lindt & Spruengli to boost production at its U.S. headquarters by 8 to 10 percent, where it will start making high-quality treats for China for the first time, Lindt USA chief executive said.

"The U.S. chocolate market is the largest in the world with a premium chocolate segment that continues to grow rapidly," said Lindt USA Chief Executive Officer Thomas Linemayr in an email to Reuters.

"The expanded Lindt USA facility will also produce products for China."

In April, the company will begin a "multi-million dollar expansion" at its U.S. headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, which will expand production from processing beans to making chocolate, storage and distribution over the "next several years," Linemayr said, declining to state specifics.

As a result of the investment, the facility will begin making chocolate for China, the world's second-biggest economy, in addition to supplying its more established markets in North America, Europe and Australia, Linemayr said.

Lindt & Spruengli is the Swiss-based maker of Lindor chocolate balls and gold foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies. Earlier this month it said that growing demand for luxury chocolates in Europe, and increasingly the Americas and Asia, should help the company increase sales and profit margins this year.

This strong demand outlook came after the company posted a 23.7 percent rise in 2013 net profit while other chocolate makers saw sluggish growth that same year.

Cocoa prices are now around 2-1/2-year highs and a global bean deficit is expected.

One of the four new products that will be made in the U.S. facility will be HELLO, chocolate featuring flavors like Cookies & Cream and Strawberry Cheesecake that target the younger generation.

The company said the expansion will include about 100 new full-time jobs as well as hundreds of seasonal positions.

(Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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