New York — The perceived health benefits of dark chocolate and its artisanal affiliation have resulted in a two percentage-point increase in consumer preference throughout the past two years, Mintel Group Ltd. reports. While 33 percent of consumers said they preferred dark chocolate over white and milk in 2011, 35 percent now favor dark. Milk chocolate was the favorite for 57 percent of consumers in 2011, but only 51 percent say they favor it in 2013. Among men ages 55 and older, 46 percent are partial to dark chocolate compared with 38 percent who favor milk, while 48 percent of women in the same demographic prefer dark, as opposed to 40 percent of women who say milk is their favorite. With 73 percent of consumers saying they are aware that dark chocolate is healthier than other types of chocolate, “the progressively better-understood health benefits of dark chocolate may be increasing its popularity,” Mintel Food Analyst Sarah Day Levesque says. “Consumers are looking for indulgent foods that can serve multiple functions, such as nutrition or convenience.” Consumers’ reasons for buying chocolate vary — Mintel found 89 percent buy it as a treat, 87 percent purchase it as a snack, 83 percent compare size and price for value and 72 percent indulge for quick energy or as a mood-booster.