Sales of chocolate have fallen, confounding pundits who predicted that “comfort” food would automatically benefit from the downturn.

According to sales data gathered by The Grocer magazine, volumes of chocolate confectionery declined by 2.6 per cent in 2009. Leading bars such as Mars, Aero, Twix, Milky Way and Terry’s Chocolate Orange all fell.

Against the overall decline, a few chocolate brands did well, with Cadbury’s Wispa increasing five-fold to £58m, and Kit Kat rising by 10.9 per cent to more than £100m for the first time.

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The best-selling food brand in The Grocer Top Products Survey 2009, compiled in association with AC Nielsen, was Hovis, which overtook rival bakers Warburtons thanks to a 14.6 per cent sales surge to £445.8m.

Other big winners this year included Heineken UK’s Foster’s and Strongbow, Danone Activia yoghurts, Walker’s crisps, Coca-Cola and First Cape wine.

The Grocer’s editor, Adam Leyland said: “As well as brilliant marketing, the UK’s top brands have invested heavily in promotions to remain competitive against own-label while helping supermarkets see off the threat of discounters.”

As shoppers sought out value, cash sales of smoothies fell by 6 per cent and bottled water by 3 per cent and tinned beans, vegetables and rice rose sharply.

RESULTS

1. The fastest growing brands by sales:

Hovis +£56.9m
Foster's +£53.4m
Danone Activia +£52.7m
First Cape +£50.5m
Wispa +£47.1m

2. The fastest declining brands by sales:

Gallo - £36.3m
Pork Farms -£30.1m
Wrigley Extra -£21.4m
Innocent -£21.3m
Carling -£15.1m

3. The biggest volume rise by category:

Liquid soap 13 per cent
Cider and perry 12.7 per cent
Cheese 10.5 per cent
Flavoured milk 9.8 per cent
Shower gel 7.3 per cent

4. The biggest volume fall by category:

Shampoo -9.6 per cent
Fabric conditioners –8.6 per cent
Laundry –8.4 per cent
Kitchen towels –7.6 per cent
Frozen ready meals –4.9 per cent
Juices and smoothies –4.9 per cent

5. The biggest value increase by category:

Canned vegetables 18.5 per cent
Rice 17.3 per cent
Cider and perry 16.4 per cent
Canned beans 15.9 per cent
Table sauces 13.8 per cent

6. The biggest value decrease by category:

Juice and smoothies -6.6 per cent
Bottled water -3.2 per cent
Gastric and indigestion remedies -3 per cent
Razors -2.6 per cent
Baby juice -2.5 per cent
Toothbrushes -1.1 per cent



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