CHICAGO — The market for potato chips grew 22% during the economic downturn, according to Mintel International.

Other salty snacks also experienced sales growth during the recession as well with the tortilla chip market increasing by 18% since 2007, popcorn increasing 17% and cheese snacks growing 20%.

"People bought more chips during the recession because they’re a good value," said Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel. "As the economy gets stronger, we expect annual sales increases to slow, but we don’t expect markets to contract. New product innovations and the changed eating habits of many Americans will keep shoppers headed toward the snack aisle."

With economic recovery on the way the sales increases are expected to level off in coming years. During the next five years, potato chip sales are expected to rise more than 3% annually with tortilla chip sales increasing more than 4%.

The overall salty snacks market is well established with 50% of children, teenagers and those 18 to 24 saying they eat salty snacks five times a week or more. Adults also said they eat salty snacks nearly once a day. There is also interest in healthier snacks and alternatives to salty snacks.

"Salty snacks are clearly embedded in American’s style of eating, and they’re used by all ages as a way to curb off hunger between meals or after dinner," Mr. Haack said. "But at the same time, there is growing interest in healthier snack options."