Sales of healthy snacks are forecast to rise by more than a fifth by 2014, according to exclusive research from just-food.

Driven by emerging markets like India and China, global sales are projected to reach US$27bn in 2014, up 21% on the level seen in 2009.

The nuts, seeds and mixes category is expected to continue to make up the majority of sales of healthy snacks worldwide, the report said. Sales in that category are forecast to rise from $13.75bn in 2009 to $16.25bn in 2014.

However, sales of crisps and other salty snacks are expected to more than double from $775m to $1.7bn.

“Although the difficult economic situation may hold back sales over the next couple of years, brand and new product activity levels are likely to remain high for the healthy snacks sector, thereby attracting more consumers to the category,” the report said. “Consumer awareness of the health benefits of ingredients such as whole grains and fibre is expected to continue to spread, with manufacturers adapting their product ranges accordingly.”

Emerging markets are expected to drive the sector’s growth, the report argued. In these markets, demand for snack foods continues to increase at a “rapid rate”.

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The report cited the emergence of affluent, urban consumers in markets like India and China, as well as Brazil and Russia, as key to the sector’s growth. “Demand for Western-style snacks is forecast to continue growing and the increasing globalisation of brands means that many healthier varieties could find new markets over the next decade,” the report said.

Male consumers are also expected to be a key factor in driving the growth of the sector, the report said.

The report cited Nick Stuart, commercial manager at United Biscuits’ UK arm, who said the company was seeing sales to men rise. “While historically women have been seen to be the main purchasers of healthier [snacks], we are witnessing strong sales growth among men,” Stuart said.