REPORT: FULL FAT IS BACK

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Consumers are once again enjoying "full fat" in the snack food category.According to the 1998 State of the Snack Food Industry report, published by the Snack Food Association here and released earlier this summer, in most snack food categories sales of better-for-you snacks either remained constant or decreased."Low-fat and better-for-you is no longer the fastest growing category

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Consumers are once again enjoying "full fat" in the snack food category.

According to the 1998 State of the Snack Food Industry report, published by the Snack Food Association here and released earlier this summer, in most snack food categories sales of better-for-you snacks either remained constant or decreased.

"Low-fat and better-for-you is no longer the fastest growing category in snack foods. People are going back to the full fat," said Ann Wilkes, vice president, communications, SFA.

For example, in the potato chip category, which remains the largest snack food segment, with 1997 sales of $5.2 billion, up 6.2%, on a pound basis, reduced fat accounted for 5.8% of sales, low fat accounted for 4.3% of sales and fat free accounted for .2% of sales. All three were flat. Regular potato chips accounted for 89.7% of sales, up 0.5%.

However, since the 1998 report was conducted with 1997 sales data, the impact of chips made with olestra, the new artificial fat from Procter & Gamble Co., were not included.

"We haven't seen the effect of olestra chips yet. That will be the big thing to watch in '98," Wilkes said.

Potato chips remain the favorite salty snack of Americans, accounting for 31.7% of snack dollar sales and 31% of volume sales. In addition, potato chips was the only category of snack food other than microwavable popcorn to experience increased per capita consumption in 1997 over 1996.

In supermarkets, dollar sales of potato chips were $2.34 billion, a 3.5% increase from 1996 figures. Tortilla chip sales increased 3.9% to $1.55 billion, but poundage slipped 0.6% to 600.2 million pounds.

In supermarkets tortilla chips were followed by corn chips, with sales up 4.4%.