Men are Britain's true chocoholics, with three in five (58%) men snacking on chocolate when out and about, compared to just half of women, according to a new report.

"For years we have always assumed that women are the real chocoholics but this is simply not the case.  People may have assumed this because women will often make a bigger deal out of eating chocolate, seeing it as a treat while on a diet or while watching their weight.  Men on the other hand tend to just tuck in whenever," said Claire Hatcher, consumer analyst at Mintel, which carried out the research.

The research also shows that women tend to eat healthier snacks more readily than men do.  As many as three in five (62%) women snack on fruit compared to just half (51%) of men.  Vegetables also prove to be more popular amongst women (13%) than men (8%). In general over three-quarters (76%) of women are considered 'healthy snackers', as they snack on dried and fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables, compared to just two thirds (66%) of men.

"Women on the whole are more health conscious than men.  They are almost twice as likely as men to be on a diet and are more likely than men to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day," Hatcher added.

Pies and pasties highlight one of the biggest snacking differences between men and women. Men are far more likely to 'pig out' on pies, with around one in five (21%) doing so, compared to one in ten (10%) women.

Fruit is Britain's snack of choice

Today fresh fruit is the number one snack in the UK, with almost three in five (57%) adults claiming to snack on fruit.  This has risen in popularity since 2002, when just half of us (50%) snacked on fruit.

Unhealthy snacks such as crisps and sweet biscuits have declined in popularity over the same period. While back in 2002 two in five (40%) adults snacked on crisps, today just a third (33%) do so. There has been an even greater fall from grace for biscuits, often the ideal accompaniment for a tea or coffee break. In 2002 almost 45% of adults snacked on biscuits, while today just three in ten (30%) do so.

Chocolate is the second most popular snack in Britain, with just over half (53%) of adults snacking on chocolate bars.  Chocolate is one of the few less healthy snacks to have increased in popularity between 2002 and 2004, but this is likely to be because men now snack on chocolate bars more often than ever before.

In terms of money, Britain spends some £9.2bn on snacks and while this may sound a significant amount we have seen that the market has only grown by 5% over the past five years, from £8.7bn in 1999.

Londoners are Britain's healthiest snackers

Today almost three-quarters (72%) of adults in Britain are 'healthy snackers', while only around three in five (59%) are 'sweet-toothed snackers'.  It is Londoners who are leading the healthy snacking brigade.  Almost eight out of ten (79%) Londoners can be considered 'healthy snackers' as they snack on fresh and dried fruit, nuts and vegetables, the highest of any area in Britain. Those living in Wales and the South West (67%) and those living in Scotland (69%) are the least likely to be 'healthy snackers'.