Heart attack fears banish snack attack cheer
One of the supermarket and convenience store staple shelf-fillers, crisps, is suffering a serious decline in sales. According to analysts at Mintel, the UK is by far and away Europe's greatest snacking nation, but health concerns have led to a serious drop in sales for crisps and other savoury snacks.

Between 2002 and 2005, volumes of crisp sales fell by 12 per cent. The value of sales was also slashed by£200 million, a fall of 6 per cent over the same period.

Mintel senior market analyst David Bird said that crisps and snacks - which are classed as any product made from potato, wheat, rice or corn which has been baked, extruded, cooked or processed in any way other than frying - have suffered from a bad image problem as consumers have turned to healthier options. The decline in the population of children under the age of 15 by 4 per cent has also hit crisp and snack sales.

Even low-fat variants have not helped to keep sales of crisps buoyant, because independent retailers tend not to stock them. Bird said that more than a quarter of consumers are even sceptical of manufacturers low-fat claims. He said: 'Consumers see crisps as an inherently unhealthy product and if they are dieting or adopting a healthy eating regime, they will avoid crisps completely rather than opting for a healthy variant.'

Some manufacturers have reacted to the decline in the nation's snacking by going after alternative markets to the traditional young consumers. Some are offering higher priced premium brands to the remaining crisp and snack buyers. Others have packaged their products to appeal to certain sections of the market, such as young men or women.

Five facts about crisps

· This year, the UK will eat 268,000 tonnes of crisps.

· This is down from a peak in 2002 of 306,000 tonnes.

· Despite a 17 per cent drop, ready salted is the highest selling flavour crisp, with 26 per cent of the market.

· Cheese and onion, and salt and vinegar come second and third with 20 per cent and 18 per cent of the market respectively

· Beef and prawn cocktail flavours have much less market share, but their sales have increased by 103 per cent and 91 per cent respectively between 2002 and 2004.