This article is part of our 2016 Confectionery digital feature

One in five Brits feel guilty after eating chocolate or sweets, The Grocer can reveal, and nearly 40% think eating sweets and chocolate is frowned upon more than it used to be.

Women are far more likely to be plagued with regret as a quarter feel guilty after munching on confectionery compared with just 13% of men. As are younger generations: nearly a quarter of those aged 16-34 feel guilty after indulging, while just 15% of people aged 55+ do.

The exclusive poll, carried out by Harris Interactive, also shows that 45% of respondents eat chocolate at home rather than on the go. Sharing formats and the success of the big night in are likely to be factors, but eating confectionery behind closed doors means consumers avoid the glare of a more disapproving society.

Guilt doesn’t necessarily translate into action, points out Tania Page, interim sector head of CPG and retail at Harris Interactive. “Only one in 10 consumers are actively trying to cut the amount of sugar their kids eat, although when over-16s eat confectionery it’s obviously top of mind as only 36% of consumers say they don’t count the calories in it.”

There’s good news for manufacturers that have tweaked their recipes, as only 21% of respondents believe chocolate is not as good as it used to be (this rises to 28% among 45 to 54-year-olds).

Other changes are not so welcome: 37% of respondents say they wish confectioners would stop tinkering with portion sizes.

“Although some manufacturers may have reacted to the shift towards cutting down on sugar by changing portion sizes, it’s clear that around a third of consumers don’t like it, with this rising to two in five for those aged 55 and over,” says Page. “On the whole, though, consumers seem not to mind revisions to packaging formats. It may be a way in which manufacturers can continue to help consumers reduce their sugar intake.”

Which of these statements do you identify with in terms of confectionery?        
  Total Male Female 16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+
I tend to eat chocolate at home rather than on the go 45% 40% 51% 45% 43% 38% 42% 52%
I wish confectioners would stop tinkering with portion sizes 37% 38% 37% 31% 34% 36% 34% 43%
Eating chocolate and sweets is definitely more frowned upon than it used to be 37% 31% 44% 30% 29% 33% 40% 45%
I don’t tend to consider how many calories I’m consuming when I eat sweets or chocolate 36% 38% 34% 41% 35% 34% 37% 34%
I wish people would stop going on about how much sugar we eat; confectionery is a treat! 31% 31% 31% 32% 32% 28% 32% 31%
Chocolate is not as good as it used to be 21% 21% 21% 15% 17% 17% 28% 24%
I feel guilty after I eat chocolate or sweets 19% 13% 25% 25% 23% 18% 19% 15%
I am actively trying to cut the amount of sugar my kids eat 13% 12% 15% 7% 20% 19% 15% 8%
None of the above 7% 9% 6% 6% 5% 11% 8% 7%

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