Driving the trend is a growing awareness by US consumers of the connection between certain foods and diseases. Frost & Sullivan advised US manufacturers to respond to consumer purchasing patterns and to innovate and to experiment with novel ideas. "Maximising innovative strategies is the sure-fire route to business development," said the report. The best opportunities lie in niche sectors where successful market penetration will require product specialisation and uniqueness, it continued. Similarly in Europe, consumers of all ages are tending to choose bakery products they view as healthy or nutritious, driven by government pressure to eat well and concern about body image, confirmed a Euromonitor report last March. The company also advised European bakers to tailor their products to meet demand for healthier products that boost nutritional input. The top three bakery manufacturers in Europe, Barilla, Danone and Kellogg, dominate the market, at least partly, because of their successful entry into the healthy bakery market, said the company. US growth The US bakery industry is growing by 2 - 3 per cent a year and last year yielded revenues close to $34bn, said Frost & Sullivan. And the average per unit prices of baked goods have increased annually since 1991 indicating manufacturers' success at over coming challenges and identifying new opportunities. Food fortified with ingredients such as vitamin, minerals, Omega -3 and -6, fatty acids, prebiotics and probiotics have bolstered demand for baked goods and earned considerable extra revenues. These trends have spawned a "whole gamut of products, especially low-fat, sugar-free items, providing an interesting and diverse mix of health, convenience and indulgence," said the report. Demand for gourmet and speciality products have increased too. Manufacturers of bakery ingredients have benefited from these trends as more emulsifiers, enzymes, colours, flavours, antimicrobials are used in the industry. Strong competition in the food and beverage industry require meticulous strategic planning. Attractive pricing, enhanced customer support and a large product portfolio are vital to help deal with intense rivalry, pressure on costs and restrained profits, said Frost & Sullivan. European dominance According to Global Industry Analysts, Europe dominates the global bakery products market, with an estimated market share of 43.85 per cent last year. America has the second biggest share, claims Frost & Sullivan.