NEW YORK — American consumers are snacking more than ever with U.S. retail sales of packaged snacks reaching $64 billion in 2010, up from $56 billion in 2006, according to market researcher Packaged Facts. In addition, sales of packaged snacks are expected to reach $77 billion by 2015.

This represents a compound annual growth rate of 3% in recent years with that growth rate expected to increase to 4% by 2013. Snacking has been on the increase as the result of less frequent restaurant dining, busy consumer lifestyles requiring eating on the go, and more and more consumers are repacking meals with several smaller snacks. Also, manufacturers are working to develop healthier snacks that still taste just as good.

“The boundaries between meals and snacks are growing even blurrier, creating consumer consumption habits that will resonate for generations,” said David Sprinkle, research director and publisher of Packaged Facts. “The children of today, comfortable with replacing entire meals with snacks, will pass these lifestyle traits on to their children, ensuring that snacking will remain a big part of American life.”

Health is top-of-mind for consumers, and snack foods that are marketed with a “better-for-you” halo will remain popular. Companies are highlighting vitamins, minerals, fiber content and lower sodium more so than ever before. In addition to the health aspects, manufacturers must also offer a secondary level of appeal to consumers such as unique flavors or ingredient blends and an overall quality taste.