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The salty snack category comprises a range of foods, from potato chips – an almost universal favorite – to pretzels, corn chips, popcorn, nuts, and other bite-sized snacks. Convenience and salty flavors have traditionally distinguished the category, but in the new reality of eating in the 21st century, lines are blurring. Not only is the distinction between snack and meal becoming clouded, but the “salty” part of the category name has also become less clear as salty snacks can now be salty, sweet, spicy, savory, umami, or a combination of all these different tastes.

Blurring is a general theme of the salty snack category moving into 2016, but it is not the only issue that salty snack manufacturers are tackling. Also front-and-center is the question of health, and what manufactures should do to position snacks within the bounds of what governments and consumers consider to be permissible foods for a healthy lifestyle.

The US and China by far comprise the two biggest salty snack markets by volume sales in 2015, followed by India, Mexico, Japan and the UK. But, the fastest growing markets are China and India, which have seen volumes increase between 2014 and 2015, in part because the country’s urbanization has led to consumers’ acceptance of packaged snacks in lieu of street food. On the other hand, the Mexican market has seen a marked slowdown in volume sales of snack foods as the effects of the country’s so-called “fat tax” are starting to be felt. Keeping an eye on the Mexican situation is likely to be important to manufacturers; if other countries adopt Mexico’s method for controlling obesity – by taxing “junk food” – the impact on manufacturers is likely to be notable.

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