Sales at Hancocks Cash & Carry grew 6% in 2008 to £72m - leaping 14% in the final quarter.

Its pick-and-mix ranges proved particularly popular, showing 13% sales growth in value in the year ending December.

The company had worked closely with retailers to ensure they stocked the most profitable and appealing confectionery ranges, said CEO Andrew Hancock. “If the category is given the right attention, it is recession-proof.”

Hancocks opened its 16th depot in Liverpool in September and will look for further sites this year.