The craze for everything natural is confirmed by the latest review from the Mintel Global New Products Database, which has found that 23% of all food and drink lines launched last year had a ’natural’ claim. This was a 9% increase on 2007 figures.

Claims ranged from ’all natural’ to ’no additives or preservatives’. In the UK, the importance of natural credentials was even more evident, with 36% of launches featuring a natural claim - up 17% on 2007.

Meanwhile only 12% of new product launches in 2008 were described as having ’convenience’ benefits, while surprisingly just 5% claimed to be ’ethical and environmental’.

David Jago, leading new product expert at Mintel explains: "Although convenience and the environment are popular talking points, these benefits did not receive anywhere near the same level of attention as ’natural’ claims did. With economic struggles driving people towards a simpler way of life, we expect that food and drink manufacturers will continue to prize natural wholesome benefits well into this year."

Big brand launches that play up their ’naturalness’ include Red Sky potato chips from Walkers - see story right.

And a General Mills brand has the ’natural’ tag in its name. Its Nature Valley range of granola bars are selling well. According to IRI data, the brand is worth £8.6m annually and General Mills claims it is bringing new shoppers into the healthier snack bar category.

A roasted almond variety has just been added to the line up, which the company hopes will attract more consumers.

While natural claims increased on new products last year, fortified ’plus’ claims such as ’added vitamins or calcium’ were on the wane. Such claims fell by 20%, featuring on just 5% of new product launches. What is perhaps even more surprising is that ’minus’ claims such as ’low fat’, ’reduced sugar’ or ’low calorie’ have decreased in popularity.

"In the past low fat, low calorie were the hallmarks of good nutrition and dieting but today that lifestyle seems passé," says Jago.