The 'Snack Foods' report, released yesterday by Global Industry Analysts (GIA), suggests that the industry has successfully started to adapt to the changing market. Earlier reports had predicted that the market would suffer due to consumers turning away from snack foods, traditionally regarded as being high in fat and salt. According to GIA, however, the market is not due for a crisis just yet, as global volume sales of snacks foods are expected to rise by 9.8m US tons over the next three years. Developing market growth According to the report, the global regions that present the most opportunities for manufacturers are those in Asia Pacific, Latin America and Eastern Europe. "With globalisation of brands and products, consumers in the developing world have caught up with their Western counterparts," the report states. "These markets represent optimum regions for ferreting potential opportunities." In terms of volumes, sales in these regions are predicted to grow by 6 to 7 per cent up to 2010, GIA says. The report also suggests that products regarded as unhealthy in Western countries are now proving more popular in developing countries. For example, sales of potato chips or crisps in Latin America are projected to reach $4.2bn (€2.8bn) over the next three years. In Asia-Pacific, sales of cheese snacks and pretzels are together are expected to reach 296.5 US tons. Healthy snacks - meat and trans free The trend for 'healthy' snacks, or rather those that are perceived to be healthy by consumers, shows no signs of going away, as, "health-driven snackers are setting into motion strong demand for healthy, low fat, low-calorie snacks," the report states. As well as the 'healthy' snacks that have been on the market for several years, such as cereal bars and nuts, snacks predicted by GIA to take off in terms of sales are meat and products specifically marketed as being trans-fat-free. According to the report, meat products, for example sausage bites, are currently riding back on the back of the carbohydrate-free diet trend. Manufacturers could also successfully market them as a convenient meal replacement, the report adds. Snacks advertised as trans-fat free are also likely to sell well, as more and more consumers catch on to the health problems associated with the fat. Trans-fatty acids (TFAs) are used by the food industry to extend shelf life and flavour stability, but have recently been associated with health problems such as heart disease and various cancers. Competition Even though all sectors of the snack industry are currently poised for growth, the report also warns that the sector may come into competition with convenient meals. According to GIA, a growing percentage of the global population, in both developed and developing countries, is replacing light meals with snacks. Convenient meal manufacturers could therefore market some of their products as snacks to try and gain more market share. "Meals discreetly cloaked as snacks in terms of convenience and portability is expected to thrust snack foods into a new level of competition," the report states.