According to their latest research, sales for dark chocolate hit £85 million (€106m) last year, almost doubling - by 96 per cent - between 2005 and 2007. "Although dark chocolate is still high in sugar, it is rich in antioxidants and is lower in fat than milk chocolate... and this has really struck a chord with Britain's chocoholics," said Mathilde Dudouit, senior market analyst at Mintel. From pomegranate dark chocolate and chocolate-covered berries, confectioners are increasingly tapping into today's demand from consumers for wellness products, with the health benefits of antioxidant-rich, high cocoa-content dark chocolate receiving increased recognition through a raft of recent scientific studies. In addition, key to growth in the dark chocolate segment is the mushrooming consumer desire for a slice of luxury, that sees chocolate aficionados buying less, but splashing out on more premium varieties when they do make a purchase. "Even though people are still cutting back on the amount of chocolate they eat, sales in the two years to 2007 saw no less than a 10 per cent increase in value," states the Mintel report. A figure that amply shades a mere 1 per cent growth between 2003 and 2005. Chocolate chips looking up Mintel anticipates the growth rate will continue its steep curve this year, with a further five per cent growth expected in 2008 alone, pushing the British chocolate market to £2.23 billion in value by the end of the year. "And these trends will continue to help stem the chocolate market meltdown, with sales of all chocolate set for a further 17 per cent growth in the five years to 2013," adds the 'Chocolate confectionery' report. Examining future trends for chocolate makers to hone in on, Mintel suggests that the geographical origin, and single-estate status, of specific chocolate could appeal to the discerning consumer. "In the same way that wine lovers deliberate over different grape varieties, single estate chocolate and chocolate made from different types of cocoa beans provide a real opportunity for the true chocolate connoisseur," says Mathilde Dudouit. And in a tangental trend to the dark chocolate revolution, Mintel suggest that the marriage between chocolate and wine may well be a potential 'niche trend'. "We could be enjoying our dark chocolate with red wine or an indulgent variety with a glass of fizz," finds the report. New product development that seeks to underline the potential health benefits of dark chocolate, and taps into sales gains from this gleaming segment, has thrown up an array of recent on-the-shelf launches. Californian firm Newtree Chocolates, for example, recently launched an omega-3 chocolate range that combines dark chocolate with roasted flax seeds which contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3 is enjoying booming popularity borne from research that suggests, among other benefits, they can boost cognitive function and eye health. And Maramor Chocolates, a US company, claims its new dark chocolate squares are "fortified with therapeutic doses of omega-3 fatty acids", with two individually wrapped portions providing over 100 per cent of the recommended daily dose of omega-3.