Weight loss food, beverage and supplement sales are soaring in the wake of growing awareness of the extent of overweight and obesity worldwide. While the United States leads with more than 27% of adults classed as obese in a 2013 Gallup survey, the World Health Organization reports global obesity levels have more than doubled since 1980. Moreover, medical experts now estimate that being overweight or obese is the fifth leading cause of death.
Study Ranks Best Diets
As Americans resolve to become more invested in their health and wellness in the New Year, U.S. News & World Report released its Best Diets of 2015, featuring rankings and information on 41 diet plans.
For the fifth year, the DASH diet wins “Best Diets Overall,” while Weight Watchers holds onto the No. 1 spot for “Best Weight-Loss Diets.” Researchers say the Health Management Resources plan (HMR), a new diet on the 2015 list, takes the No. 2 spot in the Best Diets for Weight-Loss category.
The Mediterranean Diet, which was recently credited with boosting life spans, claims the No. 1 spot among “Plant-Based Diets” and ties for the No. 3 spot among Best Diets Overall, behind DASH and the TLC Diet. The Raw Food Diet is No. 3 on the Best Weight-Loss list, but ranks lowest at No. 34 on “Best Diets for Healthy Eating.” The popular Paleo diet once again ties with the Dukan plan as the overall lowest ranked diet of 2015.
New in 2015, U.S. News ranked two new diets in addition to the HMR plan: the Supercharged Hormone Diet and the Body Reset Diet. The Supercharged Hormone Diet, which aims to regulate appetite by balancing hormones, lands in the middle of the rankings. The Body Reset Diet, which is a low-calorie diet primarily based on smoothies, ranks low in most categories at No. 30 for Best Overall Diets and No. 33 for Best Weight Loss Diets.
“The Best Diets of 2015 is designed to help consumers identify a diet that suits their specific needs, whether they are trying to lose weight, control a chronic disease or achieve a healthier lifestyle overall,” says Angela Haupt, senior health and wellness editor for U.S. News. “More consumers are making health and wellness a priority, but they are often overrun with confusing and contradictory information when it comes to dieting. Consumers can rely on U.S. News for in-depth tools and rankings that empower them to make better, more informed choices about their weight and lifestyles.”
U.S. News’ panel of health experts, including nutritionists and physicians specializing in diabetes, heart health and weight loss, scored each diet for short- and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety and nutrition. Diets are ranked in eight categories, including diabetes and heart disease prevention and control, as well as easiness to follow and likelihood of weight loss.
In addition to the rankings and data, the Best Diets of 2015 features in-depth profiles of each diet, including how the diet works, evidence supporting or refuting its claims, a nutritional snapshot and a close look at the food on each plan. Searchable tools allow users to identify diets that meet their individual nutritional, health and lifestyle needs.
This year, consumers can also visit usnews.com to explore information about fitness trackers and how they can be used effectively.
There are numerous and complicated reasons for weight gain. Not surprisingly, there’s an equally complex weight management market that spans foods and beverages, meal replacements and diet aids, and commercial weight management programs.
Interestingly, there are relatively few new foods and beverages with a specific weight management positioning. Instead, manufacturers are paying more attention new low and light foods and beverages. These are low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar products. And again, many are marketed on a broader platform of general health and wellbeing—rather than slimming or weight management aids.
Innova Market Insights finds that during a 52-week tracking period ending in September 2014, an estimated 10% of global food and drinks launches used one or more claims relating to low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar levels. That figure rises to more than 13% in the US. Meanwhile, during the same period, less than 0.7% of global launches used a more specific weight management platform. That number rises to just 1% in the US.
If pet foods are excluded, cereal products (cereal bars and breakfast cereals), ready meals, hot beverages and soft drinks accounted for the highest number of global launches on a weight management platform with a combined 38% of the global total.
Raise the Bar
Within the cereals market, cereal bars have seen the highest levels of new product activity. Cereal bars account for more than 60% of all US cereal launches recorded. Perhaps not surprisingly, product developers have been using this popular portable product to address a wide range of formats, ingredients and target markets.
The nutrition and performance bars sub-sector has seen some of the best growth rates in recent years, led by sales of meal replacement and weight management products. Bars positioned on a specific weight management platform accounted for 4.4% of total launches during the 52-week tracking period ended in September 2014. This figure rises to 15% if bars with low-calorie and low-fat claims also are included.
A key area of interest—and a precursor for developments in the wider food and drinks market—involves protein products. This is illustrated by thinkThin bars, which debuted in natural food channels. In July 2014, thinkThin LLC, Los Angeles, introduced a thinkThin Lean Protein & Fiber Bar, which it targets to women. Flavors include Cinnamon Bun White Chocolate, Honey Drizzle Peanut, Salted Caramel, Chunky Chocolate Peanut and Chocolate Almond Brownie.
Still more interesting new creations include those from Perfect Bar, San Diego, which added Almond Açai and Cranberry Crunch Lite varieties to its line. Elsewhere, New York City’s Diet Coaching Inc. expanded its Dukan Diet Oat Bran Bars line with two interesting options: Mocha with Stevia and Chocolate with Stevia.
In the ready meals market, which is highly developed in the US and dominated by frozen lines, the low and light sector now comprises not only meals for slimmers (such as the Weight Watchers brand) but also meals with a more general health positioning. These offerings cover a range of nutritional benefits. Many tout reduced calories, fat and sodium as well as increased levels of protein and vegetables, etc.
For the record, low-fat, low-calorie and weight management claims were featured on just under 11% of global frozen meal and entrée launches during a 52-week tracking period ending in September 2014. Low-fat claims were the most popular and were showcased on nearly 9% of introductions. Next came low-calorie claims with just under 2.5% and specific weight management claims on less than 1% of new product introductions.
With its high rates of obesity and highly developed processed foods market, the US has seen strong development in the healthy and weight control meals market. Three major frozen food processors have strong “better-for-you” brands and two of them even have names associated with slimming and weight control. Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine leads the single-serve frozen dinner market, ahead of Weight Watchers Smart Ones from Heinz and ConAgra’s Healthy Choice. The single-serve sub-category is a key area for better-for-you lines and the three brands together account for more than 40% of category sales. Retailers’ private label brands also are strong.
Research indicates that single-serve frozen meals are bought by over two-thirds of US households, with those buying into the sector interested in health claims with regard to high protein, fiber and vegetable contents, as well as low sodium, fat and calorie levels.
Nestlé introduced Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine meals in 1981, when the links between diet and health were becoming much more widely understood and interest in weight management products and healthier alternatives started to rise. The brand has focused on tasty, balanced meals that are easy to prepare and enjoy. Nestlé Prepared Foods relaunched the business in early 2012 with a new look and a focus on modern healthy cuisine, encompassing Culinary Collection with chef-inspired recipes with bold flavors and exciting tastes; a lighter Spa Collection; a Market Collection featuring fresh vegetables and premium meats; as well as Honestly Good, Simple Favorites and Additions selections. The most recent development has been the launch of a Morning Collection breakfast line that includes English muffin sandwiches and two “scrambles” bowl entrees.
Heinz’ Weight Watchers Smart Ones range claims to pair great taste with calorie-controlled, nutritionally balanced meals. The range now encompasses a range of entrees, breakfasts, snacks and desserts under a number of categories, including Smart Creations (claimed to help consumers feel fuller longer with nutrient-packed options), Classic Favorites (portioned home-style favorites), Smart Anytime (fork-free options), Smart Beginnings (breakfast products) and Smart Delights (desserts). Recent activity includes the addition of Smart Creations Fish & Chips, featuring a new crisping tray, and a Vegetable Fried Rice variety in the Classic Favorites line.
ConAgra’s Healthy Choice frozen meals debuted in 1988 and the line has seen numerous changes since then. Healthy Choice now spans more than 60 offerings, including dinners, entrees and complete meals, as well as soups, lunch snacks and even frozen Greek yogurt. Most recently, brand managers are focusing on clean labels and natural ingredient attributes. Among the latest new offerings are 100% Natural Café Steamers bowl meals and a minimally-processed “simply” sub-brand.
Retailers’ private label frozen entrée brands also compete for share of stomach. For example, Safeway’s Eating Right for Calorie Counting business has been quite active. Recent launches include a Zesty Orange Glazed Chicken and 5-Grain Beef & Vegetables. In September 2014, Safeway also launched an Eating Right for Protein sub-brand. It features frozen entrees with 20g of protein and less than 15g net carbs. The new line’s 14 varieties include Crustless Chicken Pie, Meatballs Marinara and Beef Chili.
U.S. Dieters Balance Snacking, Weight Management
The eating habits of calorie-conscious consumers have changed significantly in the past five years, says Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com.
In its latest report titled, “Weight Management: U.S. Consumer Mindsets,” Packaged Facts says the percentage of consumers out to lose weight who eat several small meals a day, often snack between meals and usually only snack on healthy foods has increased between 2009 and 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who seek to maintain their weight and who eat several small meals and usually only snack on healthy foods has grown even faster, researchers say.
In its study, Packaged Facts suggests nearly 100 million Americans are watching their diet to lose weight or to maintain their current weight.
“Instead of controlling what they eat at mealtimes, today’s consumers focus on changing their snacking habits in order to achieve weight loss success, a strategy that reflects the increasing importance of snacking in America today,” says Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.
The highest priority for those taking steps to lose weight is to get control of their snacking habits.
Packaged Facts finds that two in three (66%) weight-conscious consumers limit how much they eat when they snack and 62% set boundaries on how often they snack. By comparison, the idea of eating smaller or moderate portions at mealtimes does not rank high on the list of actions for dieters even though overeating at meals ranked fourth on the list of reasons why overweight adults believe they are overweight. Only 33% say they are taking this step to lose weight.
Besides controlled snacking and the obvious necessary need to exercise, other high-priority weight loss actions involve a range of food monitoring activities. These include checking food labels to avoid high-fat products, high-sugar products and high-sodium products as well as limiting the use of processed foods.
Visit www.packagedfacts.com for more information about Weight Management: U.S. Consumer Mindsets and other reports.
Dietary supplements also play an increasing role in weight management and there’s corresponding strong demand for weight loss ingredients. This has resulted in growing number of new ingredients and blends. However, it also has raised concerns about the extent of regulatory control and the safety and efficacy of some products.
According to Innova Market Insights, weight loss supplements accounted for 8% of the global dietary supplement launches recorded during a 12-month period at end of June 2014. That figure is up from just over 7% in the previous year. This increase was led by activity in Europe, which currently has a relatively undeveloped and fragmented market. The US has, by far, the most established market for dietary supplements and tends to lead market and product developments, with regions such as Europe often following.
A review of recent US new product activity illustrates the wide range of products. They include blends that just emphasize weight loss in their names, as well as more specific “mechanisms,” such as appetite suppressants or fat burners. Again, these blends contain a range of active ingredients.
Other products focus on just one key ingredient. Ingredients vary from relatively well-established offerings such as whey protein and green tea, to more unusual, more fashionable but often less-well-researched items. These include raspberry ketones, African mango seed, Garcinia cambogia, bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), green coffee extract, forskolin (from Coleus forskolii) and white mulberry (Morus alba).
There has been considerable publicity and controversy about the safety and efficacy of more unusual ingredients, particularly ones that have been promoted on television. The Dr Oz show is noted for its host Dr Mehmet Oz promoting “natural” ingredients for weight loss that may not be backed by sufficient evidence. Many of his recommendations are taken up by consumers, however, and this boosts demand and expands their use in new supplement launches. Some of the most notable examples of this include green coffee extract, raspberry ketones, Garcinia cambogia and Coleus forskolii.
The so-called “Dr Oz effect” also has spread to Europe, helping to fuel weight loss supplements sales in a number of markets, including the UK. Specialist health-food retailer Holland & Barrett claimed that its Raspberry Ketone & Green Coffee Capsules were one of its biggest sellers in the year to the middle of 2014. Holland & Barrett credited Dr Oz with driving the product mainstream, often via online blogs and forums that have picked up information from the US.
A number of drinks with raspberry ketones were also introduced, including Raspberry Aptitude energy drinks from Aptitude Life; and, more recently, a Raspberry Ketone variety in Bio-Synergy’s Skinny Water line.