The baked whole-grain snacks market has the most potential for growth, the report said, and sales of foods such as oven baked rice crisps are predicted to experience an accumulative growth rate of eight per cent over the next 5 years. The findings suggest consumers worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the health benefits of these kinds of foods, contrary to earlier reports that claimed that the sales and consumption of high fibre foods are low. According to the report, consumers in North America and Europe are most conscious of the advantages associated with eating whole grains. The US is the largest market, with an estimated $5.6bn (€4.1bn) in 2006, while Europe is expected to have a 29 per cent share of the market by 2010. Emerging markets in Asia are also experiencing considerable growth, the analysts said. They predict that Asia-Pacific, including Japan, will witness the fastest growth rate, around seven per cent, with China not far behind. China's whole grain exports have also increased, a boom attributed to improved seed plantation methods, enhanced irrigation facilities and other investments in processing methods. The country is exporting nearly as much corn, wheat and rice as Canada, Australia and the US, analysts claim. Whole grain products are defined as containing the grain's bran and germ, as well as the endosperm. Refined grains only contain the endosperm. Fibre-rich and whole grain foods have been linked to relieving a number of health benefits over the past few years, especially cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, but also asthma and diabetes. In this year alone, both the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the US Food and Drug Administration have published fact sheets for consumers who are trying to eat more whole grains but remain confused about their health effects and sources. However, certain industry players remain convinced that whole-grain and fibre consumption remains low. At the latest European congress of the American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACCI) in Montpellier, France, Francesco Pantò, director of pasta firm Barilla, claimed that whole grains are perceived as being "empty" energy foods. He quoted information from the US Department of Agriculture's ERS, which stated that thanks to low-carb diets, cereal consumption is falling. His claims appear to be supported by other surveys taken across the world. The US-based National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed last year that only eight per cent of American adults consumed three or more servings of whole grains every day, while a 1996 Italian study suggested that the country's population was meeting recommended daily intake levels for everything apart from complex carbohydrates.