Innovation is positively bursting onto a market which already has 500 brands, extensions and variants, spoiling the consumer for choice Retailers who think the crisps and bagged snacks market is saturated should take cover ­ even more products are coming to the market this year. Golden Wonder category marketing controller Kirsty Brett reckons there are already 500 different brands, extensions and variants on the market. "Too many," she says, "and it causes confusion among consumers and the trade. Most impulse retailers only stock 61 lines on average." A sobering fact is that 20% of the 500 lines account for 80% of the category's value. And of the 154 brands launched in the last two years, the top 10 account for 79% of total new product sales. This leaves 144 doing very little, except cluttering up the fixture. ACNielsen's new product monitor shows the 10 best performing newcomers in the last 12 months. Despite these statistics, manufacturers ­ Golden Wonder included ­ appear to have gone into overdrive with new product development in the last few months. Innovation, they say, is essential to keep consumers' interest alive and the market moving. Leading the pack is Walkers which has had a record year for innovation, launching Funyuns, the only branded onion ring snack in the children's sector; Walkers Square, a rebranding of Smith's Square; and, most recently, a Heinz Tomato Ketchup flavour variant of its crisps. The Heinz variant is backed by a £3.5m marketing campaign fronted by Walkers' campaign face' Gary Lineker, plus Olympian hero Steve Redgrave. Having tested a similar, non-Heinz tomato flavour in Scotland, the company is confident the new flavour will become as big a seller as cheese & onion. It's also sinking £12m into Doritos Dippas this year to launch and promote 11 new chip and dip' variants in garlic, lime and sweet n' zesty flavours and a range of pack formats. Golden Wonder is virtually alone in launching a new brand. Bugles, a crunchy, cone-shaped corn snack ­ the result of an alliance with General Mills ­ came out two months ago in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Tyne Tees TV region, and is backed by a £5m media campaign. Brett predicts that, following national roll out, it will become a £20m brand in two years. Also new is a Nice N' Spicy variant of its crisps. Spicy is the happening flavour right now. KP has embraced it big time, creating sub-brand McCoys Spice with Fiecracker Chicken, Spiced Chilli and Balti Curry flavours, launched last month. "We've had a positive reception," says marketing director Mandy Ferguson. "Consumers are ready for powerful flavours." KP's other big launch is Hula Hoops extension XL which has sales of £15m. Other notable launches include Siro UK's Pop Cracks, a microwaveable crisp that can be cooked like popcorn in less than two minutes, and BMI's Snack City, a novel "chip and dip" range in a tube featuring soap opera lifestyle stories in city destinations. Plus, there are savoury versions of Uncle Ben's Rispinos rice snacks; Rajol bite-size poppadoms from Food Brokers; and a new range of snack flavours, variants, packs and formats from Trustin Unimerchant's revamped Boulevard brand. Feel spoilt for choice? {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}