Figures from the UK's Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs released last week show household expenditure on confectionery fell 6.1 per cent in 2005 - particularly disappointing after previous years saw small increases keeping the sector buoyant.
Given the market downturn, confectionery companies are waking up to the fact that calorie-counting consumers are more likely to opt for low-sugar, low-fat alternatives to traditional brands.
Figures from market analyst Mintel indicate that just over 34 per cent of UK consumers are now actively avoiding sugar, while in France and Germany, the figures are 40 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.
Elsewhere, sugar-free gum occupies 99 per cent of the market in Poland, 95 per cent in Russia and 92 per cent in the UK.
In France where sugar-free has a market share of 88 per cent - traditional sugar chewing gum consumption was down 16 per cent against a 13 per cent rise in sales of the sugar-free alternatives.
However, even so-called healthier alternatives may not be enough to entice consumers - the DEFRA figures, recording food purchases made from April 2005 to March 2006, show UK consumers are not simply shunning confectionery but actively choosing fruit and vegetables instead.
Quantities of fruit and vegetables purchased rose by 7.7 per cent in the period while total expenditure on all food and drink rose by 1.7 per cent to £34.97 (€53.22) per person per week.