The team, from the Bari based Institute of the Science of Food Production (ISPA), used typically Mediterranean ingredients such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, aubergines and olive oil to produce crunchy, bite-size snacks. Dr Paolo Lavermicocca, who led the research, told bakeryandsnacks.com the product is the first of its kind and has recently been patented in Italy. The team is currently searching for a commercial partner to bring the snack to market. Healthy convenience snacks have been a recent area of innovation this year, thanks to heightened concerns over climbing obesity levels throughout Europe. Many snack makers are exploring alternatives to rejuvenate the image of on-the-go options. The ISPA team's vegetable snacks are low calorie, free from sugar and cholesterol, and contain no added salt. In addition, its makers claim the product boasts a long shelf life at room temperature. Dr Lavermicocca said: "I believe it will offer the consumer a unique alternative due to the nutritional value of the product and its particular organoleptic qualities." In February, a report published by market analysts Keynote, showed a decline in the sweet and salty snack sector, reflecting consumer dietary concerns. Between September 2004 and May 2005, UK salty snack sales fell 3.3 per cent.