Leading article: Sugaring the pill

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The Independent Online

The retail sector is staring into an abyss. Consumer confidence is vanishing faster than England's chances of beating South Africa in the Test series. The spectre of recession stalks the high street. But there is one area of the retail economy, at least, that is bucking the trend. Something out there is selling. So what is it, you might ask? Tinned beans? Candles? Actually no: chocolate. Most food manufacturers might be in misery, but Cadbury has announced an astonishing 12 per cent jump in profits.

We shouldn't be too surprised. Consider psychology. Your job has been axed. Your home is about to be repossessed. Your credit card has been cut up by a sour-faced shop assistant. You are faced with a choice between investing your few remaining funds in a sensible ISA or stocking up on Creme Eggs. The Creme Egg wins out every time of course. And so it should. The 19th century German chemist, Baron Justus von Liebig, once wrote that "chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power". Sounds like just the thing to see us through the downturn.

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