What do customers do when they are low in energy? Simple, they reach for a snack.

Snacking is as British as afternoon tea or fish and chips and is part of our culture. Snacks, nuts and crisps are inexpensive indulgent treats and recession-proof. In fact, the recession is the reason behind the high demand for nuts, snacks and crisps, due to the increase in consumers staying in rather than going out. Sharing bags are especially popular with consumers because they are cheaper than single-serve bags, taking full advantage of the ’staying in’ trend. This is also called the ’lipstick effect’, consumers want to treat themselves with luxuries during the recession that they can afford.

Nick Stuart, United Biscuits commercial manager, says: "Retailers should capitalise on this by stocking the best-sellers in both on-the-go and the sharing markets. Sharing formats have been one of the key drivers of growth during the past year, both in everyday and adult ranges."

Even though sharing packs are benefiting from the recession, sales of standard single bagged snacks have not. Impulse sales are also struggling, which account for the biggest part of single-pack sales. Another reason for the growth in crisps, nuts and snacks sector is that consumer tastes have changed radically in last few years. For example, programmes such as Jamie’s School Dinners and You Are What You Eat have motivated consumers to think about what they put in their mouths.

The government is already discouraging consumers from eating products with high salt and fat ingredients, encouraging the benefits of healthier alternatives, and the trend towards banning junk food has opened the door for new business opportunities.

Bakers can tap into this by educating consumers on the nutritional value of the nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Another way to increase your sales is by positioning healthy snacks near the till. Nuts are already associated with convenience, but if they are associated with health, even better. Twenty-nine per cent of consumers do not purchase nuts on a regular basis, so consider introducing flavoured varieties.

Despite the threat of government intervention, it would appear that sales of crisps, snacks and nuts show no signs of abating. The category saw a 7.1% increase in value and a 1.1% increase in volume from 2010 to 2011 (52 weeks ending 7 August 2011) as consumers turned to a premium or healthy offer according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Why not take advantage of the healthy trend, look for products that use sunflower oil for crisp frying as well as baked crisps. Selling smaller bags gives consumers the opportunity to buy them as an accompaniment to lunch. Think impulse purchase and high visibility. According to Stuart, the premium snacks market has become more popular in the convenience channel. So you can stock several premium brands to reach the consumers. "Premium snacks are currently worth £85m and experienced 3% value sales growth in the impulse channel," says Stuart.