Health is still major driver

If you take clear leader Walkers out of the equation there are real signs of excitement in the growing bagged snacks market.

Pringles has risen from third to second place, elbowing McCoy's firmly out of the way, and Doritos has steamed ahead of McCoy's to be crowned third. Lower down the list a similar battle has been fought between Monster Munch and Kettle Chips, with the latter growing sales by an impressive 24 per cent and moving from bottom spot to eighth. Monster Munch has dropped out of the top 10.

Walkers still dominates the category and, with solid 5 per cent growth during 2007, the brand remains more than three times the size of nearest competitor Pringles. The company recently announced it will plough £27 million into marketing this year, including an ad campaign highlighting that Walkers are made from 100 per cent British potatoes.

Also crucial to Walkers' 2008 fortunes will be its continued commitment to cutting the saturated fat and salt in a standard bag. The 222 per cent sales increase of Walkers Baked Crisps, although from a small base, shows how impulse consumers are swayed by a healthier offering.

Walkers Sensations is the only brand in the snacks line-up to lose sales, but compared with the previous year's 16 per cent sales plummet, a 3 per cent fall isn't too dramatic. The brand will benefit from the trend for premium sharing brands, which has also buoyed Kettle Chips and helped it register double-digit growth.

But there is talk in the trade that the sharing market has peaked. Procter & Gamble has launched a Pringles pocket pack to target the single-serve snacks market.

United Biscuits should be singled out for praise, with three of its brands ­making the top 10, each with solid growth. In January United announced it will be spending more than £10 million on product launches and ad campaigns for its core snack brands in 2008, including a limited edition McCoy's range inspired by takeaway meals.

The company has also increased investment in healthier versions of its core brands.

Star performer

Doritos has benefited from a well-thought-out marketing strategy designed to clear up consumer confusion about its sub-brands. The most popular Dippa flavours - Hint of Lime and Lightly Salted - were incorporated into the brand's core range and the more obscure Latinos and Dippas ranges were discontinued. The brand's 21 per cent sales rise is also a result of demand for sharing bags.

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