According to a study released late last month by the Market Investigation Society (Investmerc), consumer habits in Chile have changed considerably over the past 10 years, reflecting increased average income, greater competition in the food sector and increased female employment.Breakfast cereals, frozen vegetables and prepared food have seen the greatest sales surge, rising 322%, 286% and 224% respectively between 1992 and 1999. Total food sales last year were worth US$2.4bn, and were dominated by cured and sausage meat (44.4%), cheese (12.1%), chocolates (12.1%), milk (8.9%), and frozen vegetables (5.7%). Bread, not included in this total sales figure, is alone worth over US$1.4bn. On average, each Chilean eats a staggering 90 kilos per year, one of the highest figures in the world.According to Investmerc general project manger Hernan Vicenio, the greatest potential for growth is in the quality food sector. Bread consumption is likely to remain stable, but Vicenio predicts growth in purchases of healthier whole-wheat or low-calorie options. Investmerc also anticipates an increase in bread substitute items and cereal bars.Yet while some Chileans are looking for healthier options, many continue to ignore medical evidence correlating red meat consumption to coronary complaints; sausage and cured meat consumption is expected to rise. The consumption of fish, a healthier option, is remarkably low considering that Chile has over 4,000 km of coastline. On average each person consumes only 7.27 kilos per year, leading several fisheries to look for new ways to attract consumers, experimenting with value-added production or alternative products. However, according to a study by the government's fisheries department, the best way to attract more consumers would be to reduce prices, improve hygiene standards and packaging, and upgrade the distribution network.