Can pasties ’face’ the challenge of cosmetic surgery? Before we answer this eyebrow-raising question, here are some interesting facts to consider:

n 65% of the UK population seek food-related products to provide a health benefit

n 14% wish to lose weight

n 8% of males now have facial cosmetic surgery

n 19% look for health in later life

n 17% strive for sensible all-year-round health.

Health is now the primary driver behind meal occasions consumed in and out of the home for one in five people. That equates to 15.2bn meal occasions and it’s growing by 5% year-on-year. So does this healthy shift mark the demise of perceived less healthy products such as the pie and perhaps herald the end of the pastie craze? And how on earth do male cosmetics come into the equation?

Demand for male cosmetics has resulted in a year-on-year boom in male cosmetic products of 38%. That level of growth has occurred every year since 2002 - many bakers can only dream of such rises.

Why? Because British males have more dough to spend on their ­appearance. That apparently useless fact can help us judge the consumer spends of the future. One can actually transform this into meaningful data to reflect trends affecting the pastie market.

What this shows us is that as men invest in skincare products, they are increasingly conscious of how others perceive their appearance. Haircare leads eventually to body care. Thus begins a journey where men think more about their dress sense. Then along comes some form of body awareness: bloke joins the gym, bloke runs a bit more, bloke drinks more water and less booze, bloke starts to eat a sensible diet and consumes more salads and veggies. Pie and chips drops out of the routine and it’s an exit for the weekly pastie treat.

The British male wants to look younger, act younger and strut his stuff in the latest garb. Be aware, he is watching his waistline and counting his wrinkles. This information counters the government view that we are all getting fatter.

So, as we approach 2008, the Year of Health, labels with sugar and fat warnings everywhere, the male is looking trimmer, he’s diet smart and he’s watching his body beautiful in the mirror. The health-conscious ageing UK population - those over 50 - are also in huge growth and sales of all those ­savoury pastries are declining.

Or are they? Indulgence and reward are entrenched human traits, so I, for one, suspect that the pastie will survive. Plus the target market of the fancy designer pastie chains is not getting fatter, nor are shoppers in the pricey deli sections of the supermarkets.

But bakers will still need to stay ahead of the game. The pastie of the future will probably need to have Omega-3 in its enzyme-enriched, calcium-enhanced pastry and the ingredients will include ginseng and other brain-improving, ethical, planet-friendly stuffings - no doubt sourced from the local organic pig farmer!

What this spells out is that the baker has to get his NPD hat on, think outside the proverbial donut box and consider how to get a guilt-free pastie into those healthier males.n