Chocolate Easter eggs
British shoppers spent £374m on Easter eggs, bunnies and all types of chocolate last year Getty

Easter is coming and the British public knows this is the right time eat novelty chocolate. And lots of it.

Shoppers spent £374m on Easter eggs, bunnies and all types of chocolate last year, according to research group Mintel, with a similar amount set to be spend this weekend.

This is a key time of year for retailers such as Thorntons and Hotel Chocolat, with confectionery accounting for 68% of all Easter product spending.

Marcia Mogelonsky, Mintel food and drink director of insight, said: "The UK market saw growth in Easter treats in terms of both volume and value. However, value growth was highest, suggesting consumers may be investing in slightly more premium chocolate products as brands increasingly expand their offer."

Upmarket chocolate maker Hotel Chocolat recognised this when it posted half-year profits up 28% in February to £11.2m as it opened new shops.

Co-founder and chief executive Angus Thirlwell said: "We have strong plans in place for the key spring seasons of Mother's Day and Easter and are confident of further progress."

Chocolate sales in mature markets such as the UK, Germany and the US has been flat over the last two years, said Mintel. But seasonal sales throughout the year remain buoyant.

"Seasonal chocolate is somewhat immune to recessionary pressures as these products are bought on an occasional basis," said Mintel's Mogelonsky.

Nobody packs away more of the stuff per head as the Brits. Last year Britons eat 8.61kg of chocolate per person, according to Mintel estimates. That was enough to beat the Swiss into second place, who only managed 8.59kg, with the Germans third consuming 8.32kg.

But in terms of sheer weight of chocolate eaten the US is way ahead, munching through 1.3 million tonnes last year. Britain only managed fourth place packing away 555 thousand tonnes. That fourth place suggests that some of us aren't pulling our weight.

The range on offer this weekend is dizzying. It runs from a Mars Milk Chocolate Easter Egg going for £6 in Tesco, to a £39.95 Fortnum & Mason Hand Decorated Milk Chocolate Egg, "a work of art in chocolate", it says on the luxury retailer's website.