Cadbury Schweppes has claimed confidence in its chocolate brand is recovering following a product recall in June.

The company said public perception of its chocolate bars had returned to the levels seen before it was forced to recall around one million bars amid a salmonella scare.

But despite the fightback, Cadbury admitted the confectionery market in the United Kingdom was weaker than expected, with sales since July down five per cent on the previous year as a direct result of prolonged hot weather.

The firm said trading was in-line with expectations in three of its four regions, the exception being Europe, Middle East and Africa which includes the UK.

It forecast like-for-like revenues growth for the full year, including the UK, to now come in at the middle of its target range of between three and five per cent.

Chief executive Todd Stitzer said that while the salmonella scare in June also impacted sales in the early part of the summer, consumer confidence in the Cadbury brand had rebounded.

"Had it not been for the continued long, warm spell, the group would have met it targets for revenue and margin growth," he said.

"The UK confectionery market, which accounts for 15 per cent of our group sales, has been weak, but we think the weather had a greater effect than the recall difficulties."

Excluding the UK, the group still expects revenues to be at the top end of its target range.

Around 70 per cent of the group's sales are derived from the Americas and Asia Pacific.

Analysts said Cadbury may be suffering from changing patterns among British consumers as well as the salmonella recall and hot weather as they trimmed their 2006 earnings forecasts by one to two per cent due to lower sales growth and flat margins.

"The burning question is whether there has been a material change in UK consumer buying habits which will be difficult for chocolate manufacturers," said analyst David Lang at Investec Securities.

Cadbury said its UK chocolate market share had slipped 0.1 points to 34.6 per cent in the year to date, compared to US group Mars which was flat at 26.6 per cent and Nestle which was down 1.6 points at 15.6 per cent.

It has launched Cadbury Melts and Flake Dark, but analysts said the next few months will be critical for Cadbury's very profitable UK chocolate business to see if consumer habits are moving towards buying more healthy products.

"We're very aware that the group is now entering the important pre-Christmas trading period. We've a number of new innovations ready to come to the market and overall the group is in good shape," said Mr Stitzer.

In late June, Cadbury started recalling more than a million chocolate bars in Britain and Ireland because of minute traces of salmonella in a number of its products and put the cost of the recall at #20 million.

Liberal Democrat shadow Defra secretary, Chris Huhne, said: "Cadburys has paid the price for its failure to quickly tackle contamination in its plants, and for then failing to own up quickly and put things right.

"It is another object lesson that in areas concerning public health, companies cannot be too careful with their reputation, and also that regulators need to be tough and vigilant."

Cadbury shares have recovered from a low of 492.5 in June, but have still underperformed the DJ Stoxx Food and Beverage Index by around nine per cent this year due to poor European trading in the first quarter and the salmonella scare.

The company gave its trading statement ahead of an investor seminar on October 30, when it is expected to outline new targets for sales and margins when its four-year 2004-2007 Fuel for Growth programme comes to an end.