Sales of Salted Snacks Pick Up Speed

Times Staff Writer

The increasing concerns over sodium consumption have not dampened the popularity of salted snack foods, according to a recent survey of the industry by Frost & Sullivan, a New York-based research firm.

The study estimates that sales of potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, etc., will reach $6 billion by 1990, up from the 1985 level of $5 billion.

"The industry is growing about 25% faster than total food sales . . . (and) is poised for growth," the report stated.

Several factors are contributing to this healthy business outlook, including the so-called grazing phenomenon. This style of eating calls for several small meals throughout the day versus a standard breakfast, lunch and dinner regimen.

Also lifting the chip category is the increased number of women entering the work force. Frost & Sullivan states that wage-earning women eat 5% more salted snacks than those without full-time jobs.

Health concerns have influenced snack manufacturers' product lines to some degree, and the survey predicts that "light" or reduced-calorie chips will become more common. However, the report says the greatest changes will occur in appearance and not necessarily content.

"Potato chips are getting thicker. Tortilla chips are proliferating, with virtually every regional manufacturer introducing a new brand. . . . Most of the new introductions will continue to be variations on old favorites: Potato chips are finding new shapes, forms and flavors (oiled, cheesed, already dipped), while the tortilla chip--currently in vogue--is taking on almost every imaginable shape, taste and form," Frost & Sullivan reports.

Whatever new variations snack-food manufacturers have in store for potato chips and pretzels, they will not be too radical a departure from the norm.

"Americans, as a group, are picky about snack foods and tend to stick to the same kind of snacks for a long time," the survey states.

Belts and Burgers--Long thought to be nearing inclusion on the endangered species list, the iguana has received a new lease on life. This large South American lizard may soon become a commercial source of food in parts of Latin American as a result of research that successfully hatched iguana eggs, according to a report in International Wildlife magazine.

The work was conducted by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and is reportedly the first time iguana eggs have been hatched in captivity. The breakthrough apparently paves the way for development of iguana ranches, which could serve as sources of both food and apparel.

Encouraging some protein-poor Latin American nations to incorporate lizard into their diets will not be difficult. The magazine's account states that iguana has been prized as a food since prehistoric times. However, the reptile became scarce because of overhunting and destruction of its tropical-forest habitat.

Raging Cajun Influences--California chefs seem to have lost their lock on culinary innovations. Led by the rotund chef, Paul Prudhomme, New Orleans-area restaurants are in the forefront of a style that is being readily imitated throughout the country.

Providing assistance for those restaurant operators interested in this Louisiana-based cuisine is Restaurants & Institutions magazine. The most recent issue features an article titled, "A Taste of New Orleans," and provides recipes for such items as crawfish and eggs, seafood sausage and spoon bread.

The magazine has high praise for the New Orleans style and lavishes compliments upon the cuisine's originators.

"New Orleans is ground zero for an explosion of the most flamboyant American regional cookery of the decade: Louisiana Cajun, Creole and soul."

What makes Cajun the rage at fashionable eateries?

Well, Prudhomme has an explanation in his oft-quoted description of this spice-laden food:

"When the taste changes with every bite and the last bite is as good as the first, that's Cajun."

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