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Food: Sweet-toothed Britons lead world in chocolate eating

The British leave the rest of the world standing when it comes to buying sweets and chocolate, according to the 1997 Confectionery Market Review.

We each eat an average per year of 16kg (more than 35lb), making us the largest per capita confectionery market in the world, way ahead of the United States at10kg, France with 9kg and Japan with 3kg.

The review, which is produced each year by Cadbury and Trebor Bassett, shows that the market in confectionery has grown by 16 per cent in the last 10 years. In 1987 we munched our way through 735,000 tons of sweets and chocolates but by last year that had risen to a massive 850,000 tons, which pushed sales over the pounds 5bn mark for the first time. The growth is attributed to people tending to snack more, combined with a proliferation of new brands over the last decade.

Confectionery continues to dominate the snack-food sector with its sales outstripping the combined total of ice cream, biscuits, snacks and crisps.

While people all ages eat chocolate and sweets, the picture changes when you look at who actually buys the confectionery. Although children account for one-third of all confectionery eaten, they buy only 6 per cent. The biggest purchasers are women - two-thirds of all confectionery is bought by them. However, because women still do the bulk of the family shopping they eat only two-thirds of what they buy, compared with men who eat nearly all they buy themselves.

Chocoholics vary around the country - Londoners eat the least confectionery, spending pounds 1.44 per head per week. Those in Wales and the West Country spend the most - pounds 2.09 - closely followed by those in the South and South- east who spend pounds 2.04.

The traditional bar - Cadbury's Dairy Milk - continues to be the best seller, followed by Mars and Twix. The best selling sweet brand is Wrigley's Extra chewing gum, followed by Polos and Trebor Extra Strong mints.

Alan Palmer, marketing director of Cadbury, said: "This report shows how great the British confectionery industry is - we really are true worldbeaters, and our love affair with chocolate and sweets shows no sign of abating."