England may have failed to find the back of the net often enough during the World Cup, but manufacturers and retailers of crisps, snacks and nuts (CSN) certainly scored during the tournament.

Commodity-driven price rises have played a role in the 4.9% hike in category value sales but the 3.1% rise in volume sales turning around a 0.5% decline during 2009 shows the snack industry is keeping its fans happy.

World Cup fever undoubtedly played its part, with volume sales up by a whopping 12% in June, the month the tournament kicked off. The clearest example of the World Cup effect in action was Walkers' Flavour Cup campaign to "find the world's best crisp flavour", which was described by Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker as "The World Cup of Crisps". The push, which introduced 15 flavours inspired by world cuisine, outsold last year's Do Us a Flavour promotion by almost 50%, with more than 100 million packs sold and 650,000 'flavour fans' registering online during the campaign.

Products sold in a sharing format particularly benefited from World Cup fever, according to Sainsbury's senior buyer David Wainwright. "The sharing segment has shown strong growth at category level and this year's World Cup bolstered growth," he says. "In fact, sharing was up versus the last World Cup, which speaks for the importance and growth of the sharing segment."

Wainwright expects sharing to continue to drive growth in the category, a view shared by Walkers head of marketing Greg Lyons, who says sharing is the growth engine of the bagged snacks market.

Lyons adds that Walkers' sharing brands have enjoyed 21% growth and have contributed £29.1m in incremental sales to the category over the past year. Sales of Doritos, the second-biggest brand in the Walkers portfolio, have risen 16% and Red Sky 126.5%, and Lyons says Walkers Extra Crunchy posted sales of £4.8m in the first 10 weeks after its launch in August.

Sharing may be hogging the limelight but is by no means the only factor contributing to the category's stellar performance, according to Lyons.

"A range of strong value deals, on-pack promotions, enticing marketing campaigns and high-impact advertising has driven both incremental sales and frequency of purchase," he says. "It also suggests consumers are continuing to buy products after promotions end."

These factors have also enabled other bagged snacks suppliers to enjoy tremendous growth in the past year. For example, sales of Tyrrells crisps have risen 37.7% to £15.7m, driven largely by increased distribution and greater promotions. Head of sales Mike Hedges is confident the company can continue to build on its recent growth spurt in the coming months. "We are the fastest-growing brand of scale within premium chips and we've just enjoyed a record summer," he says. "Retailers are recognising the margin opportunity that premium sharing bags bring and are giving increased space on shelf and off-fixture. This can only be a good thing for the category."

In terms of other notable performers, Sainsbury's Wainwright picks out Quavers, with sales up 3.3%, and McCoy's, which reported a 8.2% sales increase, alongside another familiar brand. "A star performer for Sainsbury's has been Pringles," he says. The brand's 14.4% sales uplift marks a major turnaround after last year's 6.5% slump and is attributed largely to its 'Pringoals' ad campaign, which featured England striker Peter Crouch on pack and was launched to coincide with the World Cup.

Strong performances were also posted by Seabrook, which enjoyed 26.1% growth, and PepsiCo-owned Monster Munch, which has crept into the top 10 on the back of 34.1% sales growth, increasing its value by £13.5m to £53.1m.

While overall category figures suggest healthier snack offerings have struggled as shoppers put price before health during the recession a trend that was more pronounced in this category than in others retailers and manufacturers are bullish about the prospects for healthy snack options. Sainsbury's Wainwright says that, while healthier products may only account for 10% of snack purchases, it is a key consumer need, a view shared by Nisa-Today's trading controller Trevor Standing. "This is a small sector within the category but more players are entering it as consumers continue to look for healthier snacks," he says. Indeed, according to Hedges, the company's mixed root vegetable crisps have been its star performer in the past 12 months, while sales of its salt-free Naked Chip have risen 20% year-on-year. To take advantage of the trend, and following research among 1,000 Tyrrells' 'taste test' subscribers, the company is launching a range of gourmet premium popcorn into Waitrose in January. "It's an ideal product for consumers who want a lighter option," says Hedges.

Lyons also believes healthy snacks will gain popularity and claims Walkers has already grown its share of the better-for-you category by 3.2%. "As the economy becomes more buoyant, health will rise further up the consumer agenda and we plan to leverage this by raising awareness and getting more consumers than ever to sample our brands," he says.

Healthy options may play a bigger role in the long term but in the short term at least, sharing is seen as the key growth driver and manufacturers will no doubt already be contemplating their next big promotional tie-in. That's not to say other formats won't get a look in. Some even believe healthy snacks could steal sharing's thunder. Although the level of promotions on sharing packs is likely to increase, Nisa's Standing says the focus could shift to the individual/grab bag sector in 2011, eating into sharing's market share.

Either way promotion and strong NPD will remain crucial to the category's growth, according to Walkers' Lyons. "Market-leading campaigns and exciting NPD have kept consumers engaged with the brand throughout the year while spearheading strong category growth."

The challenge for CSN manufacturers is to repeat this trick in 2011.

Launch Of the YearWalkers Extra Crunchy PepsiCo
It was Walkers' biggest launch in a decade and it appears to have paid off in spades.

Ten weeks after launching Extra Crunchy, which was supported by a £3.5m marketing campaign featuring Lionel Richie and Gary Lineker, Walkers head of marketing Greg Lyons claims the brand is already worth £4.8m and accounts for 3.1% of total sharing sales.

Suffice to say that Lyons and his team are delighted with the performance of Walkers Extra Crunchy, a product he feels brings "innovation and excitement" to the sharing snacks market.

Top Products Survey 2010