"Knowing what is in their food is key for consumers," says Liane Barratt of brand consultancy Dragon Rouge. "A new era has arrived where ingredients are shown proudly on front of pack there is nothing to hide, but everything to share."
New products such as Warburtons' SnackaDoodle wholegrain snacks are a good example. The high-fibre crispy snacks are made of 70% wholegrains and contain no artificial ingredients or MSG, and just 84 calories per bag.
And who could forget the launch of Walker's 99 Calorie range at the end of last year? With beach holidays beckoning, the range big brand favourites Quavers, Wotsits, Squares and French Fries is proving to be a roaring success with health-conscious women.
And long-established brands are also doing their bit for the nation's heart and waistline, says Food and Drink Federation communications director Julian Hunt. "UK food manufacturers are leading the world when it comes to innovating in this area. Nearly 250 reformulated products were launched in the first six months of 2009 and in the 18-month period since January 2008 there have been more than 700 product lines launched with new recipes the equivalent of nine a week, more than in any other European country."
United Biscuits has made a number of nutritional upgrades to some of its best-selling brands, including McCoy's, which recently lowered its saturated fat content by 30%, helping to grow sales to £88m.
"Consumers want manufacturers to make every effort to produce products that fit into their daily lives and help achieve a healthier balance," says UBUK commercial manager Nick Stuart.
"Healthy eating and healthier alternatives continue to be significant profit opportunities for retailers," he adds. "Independents who don't stock the right mix of healthy products will see their business suffer as customers will go elsewhere to get what they want. While historically women have been seen to be the main purchasers of healthier alternatives, we are witnessing strong sales growth among men, so retailers should be stocking products accordingly."
One healthy snacking product category which certainly has no need for reformulation, but has the potential to transform retailers' fortunes, is fresh fruit.
More than 45% of people claim that they are meeting the recommended target of five portions of fruit and veg a day and, according to the IGD, this number is expected to continue rising. And with this surge lies a massive opportunity for convenience stores, says retail marketer Stephanie Rice.
Rice, who is also helping to promote the government-funded Change4Life scheme, understands the fears that some retailers have about fresh produce, but says that if the correct practices are adopted, all stores, even those in "tough urban areas", can profit from promoting single-portion fruits as healthy alternatives to traditional confectionery snacks.
"The truth is that convenient snacking fruits such as apples, bananas and satsumas should be treated in the same way as impulse confectionery items," she says.
Rice recommends locating products in high-traffic areas, ideally near the checkout. They should also be displayed as single items rather than pre-packed, and be clearly priced by the piece.
"Many retailers have found that they have doubled the amount of bananas they sold by simply removing the packaging and selling them as single items at an attractive price. This appeals to school children who have limited spend, mothers who are looking for a healthy snack for their younger children, and those lunchtime and on-the-go customers who are there to buy a sandwich and want a complementary item," Rice says.
Stores which have adhered to this advice have seen sales soar by up to 40%, she adds.
And all this fanfare around fresh fruit is helping to drive innovation in its other forms. The past month alone has seen a raft of new 'formed fruit' smoothie bars, ambient pot products such as Dole's low-fat fruit custard range, and even purée pouches, hit the shelves.
Dried fruit snacks are selling strongly, too. Shirley Griffiths, marketing manager for Sun-Maid California Raisins, says that sales of both its 14.1g boxes and larger 42.5g snack packs are in annual growth. "Our sun-dried raisins are 100% natural. They're just 'grapes and sunshine'."
Well, you can't be much more transparent than that, can you?
Dole is launching Fruit Snack a 100% real fruit purée in a 90g squeezable fruit pouch into c-stores later this summer. The product will be available in three flavours: apple; apple, banana & strawberry; and mango, apple, banana & passion fruit. Each additive- free pouch contains one of the recommended 5-a-day and is targeted at the lunch-box and on-the-go snacking markets. It will be available in 4 x 90g packs. rrp: £2
Feel the fruit
Lyme Regis Foods has launched a new range of yogurt and smoothie fruit snacks in strawberry and tropical flavours. The Fruitus Smoothie Bars and Smoothie Bites contain one portion of fruit per serving, delivering a sweet but healthy alternative to confectionery. They contain no hydrogenated fats and are suitable for vegetarians. They are available in counter-top display units for single purchase. rrp: 59p tel: 01633 277 600
Snack a Jacks is hoping its SHE-TIME campaign will help sales this summer. Fronted by fashion guru Gok Wan, the promotion offers consumers a prize with every pack, including shopping vouchers, makeovers, movies and holidays. The promotion will run across standard packs of sweet chilli, salt & vinegar, sour cream & chive, hot tomato, smokey bacon, barbecue, prawn cocktail, cheese and caramel. rrp: 55p tel: 0118 930 6666
General Mills UK is supporting its Nature Valley range with a £4m marketing investment, spearheaded by national TV ads this summer. The TV support also includes a bespoke tag for the brand's Chewy Trail Mix variety. The Nature Valley Crunchy range is available in oats & honey, apple crunch, roasted almond and Canadian maple syrup, while Chewy Trail Mix range is available in fruit & nut and mixed berry. rrp: 49p
tel: 01895 201 367
Alpen's bar range is now 'even tastier' with 30% more fruit recipes and indulgent drizzles. The brand has also launched an on-pack 'breath of fresh air' promotion across its cereal and bars which features an array of giveaways ranging from an all-expenses-paid week away in the Alpine resort of Zermatt, to horse riding in the New Forest. All bars are available in normal and pricemarked flash packs. rrp: 39p
tel: 01536 721 405
"Our sales of healthy snacking products such as cereal bars have been steadily growing for the past three years now as adults and also children make increasingly healthy choices.
"Our store is next to a large secondary school and it's not uncommon for lots of the kids to leave with a banana or a cereal bar now rather than something chocolatey. In fact, I have just introduced a new range of bagged dried fruit snacks after lots of demand from my local customers, and I'm glad to say that it's performing really well.
"I have always sold fruit and vegetables loose, which definitely helps to encourage impulse purchases.
"Products with a skin such as bananas, oranges and satsumas are the most popular fruit choice as they can be eaten on the go and don't require washing."
Derek Ritchie, Costcutter, Ellen, Aberdeenshire