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Snacking Takes on Greater Importance.

NEW YORK -- As the lifestyles and eating habits of Americans have continued to change over the last two decades, snacking has become increasingly prevalent, not just as a supplement to regular meals but as a substitute for them.

Although potato chips remain the largest segment of the salty snack category, other types of snacks, particularly those with a lot of flavor, appear to have captured the public's fancy. Cheese snacks are enjoying a renaissance, with sales climbing over 14% to $532.2 million. The segment is dominated by Frito-Lay's venerable Cheetos, which rode a 29.3% sales gain to claim 63.4% of the market.

Several other brands also enjoyed double-digit growth, including Wise Foods Inc.'s Cheez Doodles, and Golden Flake Snack Foods Inc., but the most dramatic gain was recorded by Planters Cheez Mania, which rode a 117.9% increase to take the No. 2 position in the category.

Corn snacks (excluding tortilla chips) showed similarly robust growth, with revenues climbing 10.4% to reach $537.4 million. Much of that growth was driven by the surging popularity of Frito-Lay Inc.'s Fritos Chili and Scoops and another longtime Frito-Lay item, Fritos.

But consumer preferences change over time, and that variability has driven the changing fortunes of different segments of the category. A few years ago concern over the amount of fat, sodium and sugar in a wide range of snacks led manufacturers to introduce versions that delivered lower levels of such substances while promising abundant flavor.

That tide has ebbed, however, and some notable product labels that had staked claims to the healthy snack turf have suffered ongoing erosion of their market share. The most recent example is in salty snacks, where products incorporating Olestra, the fat substitute developed by Procter & Gamble Co., are in a steep sales dive following an initial dramatic surge upon introduction.

According to data compiled by Information Resources Inc. for the 52 weeks ended June 18, Frito-Lay Inc.'s Lay's Wow! brand potato chips with Olestra plummeted nearly 41% to $67.7 million. That drop was nearly matched by Ruffles Wow! brand, which fell 34.% to $70 million. Similarly, Wow! brand Doritos and Tostitos turned in double-digit drops for the period, the Doritos version falling nearly 46%.

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Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 7, 2000
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