Cadbury chief executive Todd Stitzer has admitted the UK confectioner has attracted interest from companies other than Kraft Foods but declined to say from where - hours after UK reports said the Dairy Milk maker had held talks with Hershey.

Stitzer (pictured) this morning (14 December) outlined Cadbury's formal defence against Kraft's cash-and-share bid, an offer the UK firm has labelled "derisory".

Kraft first made public its interest in Cadbury in September; last month, the US food giant tabled a formal offer for the company.

Rumours have mounted that a rival bid could emerge, with Hershey and Ferrero both issuing statements last month that they were considering their options over possible offers.

Neither company has given a further indication that they could mount a bid for Cadbury, although speculation over Hershey's intentions has swirled around the market, with the US chocolate maker linked in some quarters to a joint sortie with Nestle.

Yesterday, however, the BBC reported that Hershey has held talks with Cadbury. The report claimed Hershey was prepared to offer more cash than Kraft, which has tabled a bid including a proportion of shares in its business.

Stitzer, who has reportedly publicly intimated that he would prefer a tie-up with Hershey, refused to be drawn on whether the Reese's maker had lodged any interest in Cadbury.

However, he told reporters: "We have received expressions of interest from third parties. We have been approached by a number of people but we are not at liberty to speak about them specifically."

Nevertheless, Stitzer insisted Cadbury could provide the best value to investors as an independent company. Cadbury's defence against Kraft's bid includes higher targets for sales growth, margins and dividends under the company's 'Vision into Action' programme, which the business launched in 2007 to improve revenues and profits.

Cadbury also issued a trading update for its performance until the end of November. The company said the business was performing "in line" with the "upgraded expectations" issued on 21 October.

The company said UK chocolate sales continued to grow despite "lapping a record fourth quarter in 2008".

Cadbury's gum business, which has been hit by the recession, was being helped by "early signs of good performance" from new products.

The group, meanwhile, said higher levels of flu had driven "strong growth" in the US for its candy business.

Shares in Cadbury inched higher in early trading, rising 0.2% to 792p at 08:30 GMT.