According to the study Hand-held: Culinary trend mapping report, from market researchers Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD), US consumers are simply becoming tired of 'traditional' convenient snacks. "It is pretty boring to eat the same sandwich, hot dog, energy bar or slice of pizza time and again," said Kimberly Egan, chief executive officer of CCD. "But now, hand-held food is expanding to new flavour and form horizons, offering a host of ideas to excite consumers and build new businesses," she added. Ethnic The predominant trend for hand-held snacks will be ethnic or multicultural, reflecting a more diverse demographic in the US as well as broadening consumer tastes, Egan predicts. One of the most popular snacks now available on the market is the Chinese steamed bun, or bao, a chewy dough ball with a lightly spiced meat centre. Although traditionally filled with pork belly meat, these snacks are hugely versatile, and manufacturers are now looking to a range of different fillings such as pork shoulder, chicken and even kimchee, a traditional Korean vegetable dish, Egan said. Other popular snack foods that hit this trend include tortas, traditional Mexican sandwiches, and empanadas, Latin American pastries. According to the report, consumers are attracted to the unusual shapes of these food products as well as the taste, prompting Egan to suggest that manufacturers borrow the form to create their own snacks, perhaps with a more Westernised taste. Fresh and healthy Obesity concerns continue to worry US consumers, and so snack foods that are considered healthy always sell well across the country, the report states. Fresh fruit, salad and vegetable fillings always give out a 'healthy' message, as do low-fat meats such as turkey and chicken, egg whites and bread or wraps that are low in carbohydrates, Egan said. The ethnic snack sector offers some healthy and low fat treats, she added, and examples include paletas, frozen fruit or vegetable lollies, attracting Hispanic and mainstream consumers alike. "The flavours of these pops are also a real draw, screaming 'Mexico', 'tropical' and 'fresh' simultaneously," she added. Certain Indian foods can also be placed in the healthy category, as products such as dosa lentil pancakes and kathi rolls are traditionally filled with vegetables, the report states. Premium Manufacturers of traditional US snack foods need not despair just yet, however, as the report suggests that premium twists to the familiar can help attract new consumers and boost sales. According to Egan, sliders - small burgers that are steamed over sliced onions, topped with pickles and placed on white buns - are moving up in the world, as manufacturers are increasingly using premium meats, speciality buns and unusual sauces. Breakfast sandwiches are another category benefiting from this trend, with premium lines selling well in convenience stores as well as cafes, she added.