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    U.S. Snack Industry Grows

    But many Americans are trying to snack less.

    The U.S. snack industry experienced a year of positive momentum as dollar sales rebounded in 2006, according to snack trends expert Sally Lyons Wyatt, of IRI, who spoke at SNAXPO 2007 in Hollywood, Fla., this week .

    Although indulgent snacks capture two-thirds of the current snacking market, healthier snack sales are growing at triple the rate of indulgent snacks, she said. "Lighter" versions of indulgent snacks, such as light ice cream and low-fat crackers, are seeing exceptional growth, according to IRI data.

    However, there are growing concerns, since volume sales remain flat overall, consumers are striving to snack less, Wyatt noted. "At the same time, snack manufacturers are facing increased competition from outside the core industry."

    The media, the medical community, social networks and government organizations are driving a shift towards healthier eating. However, equally powerful forces, such as an inherent desire for taste and variety and well-established snacking patterns, are driving continued high demand for indulgent products, she said.

    "Snack manufacturers and retailers face the enormous challenge of deciphering this behavior and its underlying drivers to determine the optimal mix of healthier and more indulgent snacks in their portfolios and stores and the right advertising messages to influence purchases," she said.

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