The British are the biggest consumers of chocolate in Europe, eating 10kg (24 pounds) of chocolate a year - nearly twice the European average - or the equivalent of 154 Mars Bars, according to a new report.

However, British chocoholics pay nearly 30% more than the European average. Consumers in the UK pay nearly £6 (US$11.5) per kilogram for their chocolate, three times as much as consumers in the Czech Republic, said the report from market analysts Datamonitor.

The UK chocolate market will be worth £3.6bn in 2004, and is dominated by three players - Cadbury Schweppes, Masterfoods and Nestlé - and it is the chocolate bar segment that is the major battle ground for these companies. Chocolate bars (or countline products) account for 44% of all chocolate sales by volume - with the market leaders being Kit Kat, Twix and Mars Bar.

But British consumption growth is slowing as people become more health and diet conscious. Indeed in 2004, overall chocolate volume sales rose by less than 1% to 605m kg (1.3 billion pounds). This trend is likely to continue to the end of the decade.

In order to counteract this, Datamonitor anticipates the major players will increasingly launch new low carbohydrate and sugar free products in order to achieve price premiums in an increasingly crowded market place, and in an effort to attract adult consumers back to the chocolate market. This trend has already been seen in the USA. As the childhood obesity controversy rolls on, food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly aiming new product developments at adults. Indeed, Nestlé has recently launched a low carbohydrate version of the Kit Kat in the UK.