Strong sales for premium crisp brands such as Tyrrells and Kettle have boosted the crisps and snacks category and helped counter the impact of obesity concerns.

Sales in the overall crisps, nuts and snacks market were up 5.8% to £1.5bn for the year to 24 February, according to the latest figures from TNS.

Simon Quirk, an analyst at TNS Worldpanel, said the growth in premium crisp sales helped balance losses in the kids' sector where volume was down.

Sales had been hit by

the obesity debate and restrictions on advertising to children, he said, adding that kids snacked 1.54 billion times in 2007 compared with 1.92 billion in 2004.

"Kids is an area of loss the category can't necessarily regain, but when you take value into account the crisps, nuts and snacks category doesn't seem to be suffering," he said. "Healthier alternatives have been a major driver for growth, but people are also eating snacks in the evenings when they feel they can indulge a little."

The market was also buoyed by the fact adults were prepared to pay more for healthier and premium lines, he added.

Almost 30% of bagged snacks on sale last year were new products, which he said was down to a rush from manufacturers releasing healthier snacks.

There was evidence that premiumisation was a factor in sale growth in the nuts sector as well. Nut sales were up 3.8% to £283m, fuelled by the rise of exotic offerings such as cashews and macadamias, said TNS.

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