Sales growth at Lindt & Sprüngli slowed last year as global demand for chocolates stagnated but the Swiss top-end confectionery maker still managed to significantly outpace the market.

Group sales rose 6.8 per cent to SFr 3.9bn in 2016 reported the Zürich-based company famous for its gold foil-wrapped chocolate rabbits on Tuesday. That compared with a 7.9 per cent growth in the previous year.

Lindt described the results as “particularly gratifying given the backdrop of a persistently challenging environment of stagnating and even declining chocolate markets”. Organic, or like-for-like sales growth was 6 per cent last year, down from 7.1 per cent in 2015.

Operating profits rose 8.4 per cent last year to SFr 562.5m.

Demand for chocolates has slowed in advanced industrialised countries amid weak economic growth and consumer appetites for healthier alternatives – and sales in fast-growing emerging markets have yet to compensate

Nevertheless, Lindt reported 7.4 per cent organic sales growth in Europe in local currencies last year, with sales accelerating in Germany and the UK, which both saw “double digit” growth.

In North America, Lindt reported organic sales growth of 3.4 per cent despite an overall contraction in the US market.

Some 60 new Lindt stores were opened last year, taking the total number of retail outlets to 370. The company plans to overtake the privately owned Godiva chain of shops to take the top spot in luxury chocolate retailing by 2020.

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