Although a big part of the bagged snacks repertoire continues to come under fire from the health lobby, the sector as a whole remains an important element in the make-up of lunchboxes. According to TNS, old habits die hard, with 23% of lunchboxes containing a packet of crisps.

That said, the inclusion of crisps in lunchboxes is in decline as the products make way for healthier options, according to Peter Wilson, marketing director at Kettle Foods.

"Increasing pressure from government health campaigns and growing consumer education about nutrition and diet are driving the overall decline," he says. "Additionally, there is increased competition from other categories, including cereal bars and dried fruit as well as nuts, and indeed fruit and veg in impulse packaging formats."

Manufacturers are aware of the issues, and are adding to their health-friendly offerings with baked rather than fried products and lighter variants, such as Walkers Potato Heads and reduced-fat Hula Hoops from UBUK.

In the children's sector, PepsiCo recently followed on from the success of the Potato Heads brand, which has established itself as a firm favourite, with the launch of Cheese Heads. The newcomer, which hit shelves at the beginning of the year, is a baked cheese flavoured snack that the company claims contains 70% less saturated fat than its nearest competitor. So far, the brand extension has clocked up sales of more than £4m [IRI all outlets, 52 w/e 22 April 2006].

The company also added two new multi-packs to the Potato Heads brand, which includes a new meaty assorted six-pack and an assorted 22-pack.

"Lunchbox use is up among 17 to 34-year-old males, which shows they are planning their away-from-home meals more through lunchbox use and are likely to be planning their lunchboxes on their weekly shop or top-up shop," says trade marketing manager Cara Beeby. "This trend represents a great opportunity for multi-packs."

Also on the health trail, Organix launched a bagged snack for kids, which is described as a healthier alternative to crisps.

The product forms part of the company's Goodies range, which stipulates that products have no added sugar, colourings, preservatives or flavourings, and are baked rather than fried. Targeted at schoolchildren's lunchboxes, the snack contains at least a third less fat and half the level of salt than standard baked snacks, according to the company.

Not to be left out, UBUK last year relaunched its Skips brand with new packs featuring the 'Skips promise' of no MSG, lower sodium and fewer than 100 calories per pack.n