Subtle changes are slowly influencing and reshaping the countline confectionery market.

As competition intensifies from the expanding range of cereal bars and other healthy alternatives, countlines have become more indulgent, offering an impulse treat that delivers for the consumer.

Yet, despite high scores for many of these indulgent new entries, the average rating for products in the category has fallen by one point during the past two years. In part, this reflects a growing fragmentation of the market, with fair trade, organic and premium continental chocolate options entering what has traditionally been the preserve of the big brands, but it is also the growth in popularity of less mainstream tastes such as dark and white chocolate.

At its extreme, esoteric flavours such as lavender and cayenne pepper chocolate have become more widely available, particularly in non-traditional outlets. While rejected by most, their enthusiastic acceptance by a minority reflects a growing willingness to try new tastes.

Playmil Organic Cayenne Chocolate SCORE: 18 AVERAGE: 42

Expectations of this spiced dark chocolate were not high, but a minority enjoyed this cayenne pepper variant. Surprisingly, it proved more popular in the North and among men.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk with Creme Egg SCORE: 46 AVERAGE: 42

Even those who rarely bought Creme Eggs strongly rated this combination of thick chocolate and sweet fondant filling, boosted by the Junior testers, who awarded a maximum 50.

Kit Kat Chunky - Peanut Butter SCORE: 40 AVERAGE: 42

Wariness of the combination of

peanut butter and chocolate was

dispelled as the taste was better than expected. But the sweet/salty mix would limit two-thirds of testers to occasional purchase.