Dark and ethical chocolate products are gaining in popularity as total chocolate sales in the UK continue to rise despite the tough economy.

According to Mintel, UK sales of chocolate increased by 9.2% between 2007 and 2009 to reach an estimated £3.6bn and sales are projected to grow to £4.1bn by 2015.

The research found that over half of consumers claimed they preferred milk chocolate in 2008, but this dropped to just 35% in 2009. In addition, consumers claiming that dark chocolate was healthier increased from 23% in 2008 to 35% in 2010.

Ethical concerns are also a key trend among chocolate buyers. The percentage of consumers who said they looked for Fairtrade chocolate remained steady during the recession, increasing from 35% in 2008 to 36% in 2009, while ’ethical’ was now the third most popular claim for new chocolate products, with 25% of new products launched in the UK in 2009 carrying this claim.

"Despite the recession, a growing number of suppliers and retailers have been moving towards Fairtrade. It seems only a matter of time before the seasonal and boxed chocolates market shifts this way too," said Vivianne Ihekweazu, Mintel senior food and drink analyst.

The research also found that in 2008, the brand/own-label divide stood at 84%/16%. In 2009 the split had changed to 77%/23%.