Demand for healthier snacks in Europe and the US is set to continue, according to research in the sector.

A report from market analyst Datamonitor forecast further growth in demand for healthy snack foods and drinks.

Over 20% of consumers surveyed in Europe and the US indicated that they sought healthy options much more than previously when it comes to snacking, according to Datamonitor.

The report said the growth in healthy snacks is being driven by a consumer desire to find products that can match their hectic lifestyles. Such products represent a quick fix to the dilemma of achieving a healthy diet within a time-scarce lifestyle, but without sacrificing the experiential qualities that make snacking so pleasurable, according to Datamonitor.

The report comes as niche UK firms like Glisten and Zetar have recently reported buoyant sales growth as demand for healthy snacks and confectionery grows.

"Although healthy products remain a small percentage of overall indulgent snack releases, the indication is that a growing number of consumers wish to snack indulgently, but in a "guilt-free" manner," said Datamonitor consumer market analyst and report author Richard Parker.

Datamonitor's survey revealed that 80% of both men and women in Europe and the US agreed that companies need to enhance the flavour and tastiness of healthy products. Parker said: "Snacking is a strongly sensory-based and emotive experience, and is often a response to stress or a momentary form of escapism. If that is to be fulfilling in a healthy way, then the indulgent characteristics must still be satisfied."

But the report also suggests food manufacturers will need to work hard in earning the trust of consumers regarding the healthy credentials of their products.

Snack foods and beverages with health benefits still seem counter-intuitive to many consumers and scepticism towards corporate messages makes it an uphill battle for traditional snack producers, according to the report.

Datamonitor also found that when consumers consciously select more traditional, impulse snack food or beverage options, health considerations are still not a primary influence on choice. Consumers are clearly aware of the unhealthy attributes of such products but are largely choosing to consume such products in spite of them, focusing on other attributes such as taste and indulgence/treating.

"Producers need to focus on building real trust between themselves and consumers through developing products that credibly offer health benefits and at the same time meet the impulsive indulgent needs that drive snack consumption," Parker added.