Chocolate lovers are snubbing typical childhood favorites in favor of premium products that carry pedigrees, such as a high cacao content, a lack of preservatives and,
in some cases, even a specific country of origin. And exotic bonbons and truffles now boast ingredients like olive oil, fig, chili pepper and even wasabe.
The push is being driven in part by a surge of information about the potential health benefits of cacao. Researchers say the core ingredient in chocolate includes flavanols, which have properties that could help mitigate risk factors related to cardiovascular disease. Gourmet chocolate also is getting more popular because of what analyst Joan Steuer calls "self-gifting"--the idea that it's OK to give yourself a little treat every once in a while.