This year’s “Annual R&D Trends Report on Weight Management Formulation” reads a bit differently. While still providing detailed information on current trends and growth opportunities for weight-control and weight management ingredients, PF has pushed outwards to include more of the general trends surrounding processors’ weight management efforts. Think of it as a “why processors should feel confident moving forward developing products to address this health crisis” approach.

At some point, the obesity crisis may be under control. Granted, it’s been more than a generation since overweight/obesity was recognized as a global epidemic. And, unfortunately, as long as there is an abundance of tasty, wholesome foods that people use to sustain themselves while slogging away at desk jobs, obesity could remain a perpetual crisis.

The latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures placed nearly 38% of Americans—almost 80 million people—at a level of overweight classified as obesity. About twice that number are categorized as simply overweight.

Obesity is ascertained by measuring the Body Mass Index—BMI—in which the person’s weight in kilograms is divided by his or her height in meters squared. A person with a BMI of 30 and above is defined as obese. Having a BMI from 25-30 categorizes one as being overweight.

Of course, the human cost of mass obesity is incalculable. But, the economic cost has approached the level of unbearable: More than a fifth of the average American’s income is spent on out-of-pocket health expenses related to this epidemic. The total annual figure is approaching $200 billion—more than $1,000/yr. for every overweight person.

In its 2013 “Weight Management Trends” survey, published last March, Packaged Facts noted that the CDC calls American society “obesogenic,” because it is “characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, unhealthy foods and a sedentary lifestyle.”

The three-pronged role of diet, inactivity and genetic predisposition in the still-climbing numbers of persons classified as obese still is by no means clear-cut. While the “calories in/calories out” paradigm holds generally true, getting those calories out is different for each individual.

Diet’s blame in the epidemic of weight gain radiates from the fact that, since 1970, Americans have, on average, increased their daily caloric intake by about of 500 kcals, with a precipitous plunge in daily activity.

But, genetics—and, it must be emphasized that the genetic component needs to be considered only in the face of other factors—keeps showing  itself to be more important and complicated than previously recognized. One recent example demonstrates this. 

Margarita Teran-Garcia, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Illinois, revealed in a study published this year that as many as 35% of Mexican young adults could have a genetic predisposition for obesity.

Teran-Garcia’s study, done at the Universidad  Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Mexico, tested more than 250, 18-to 25-year-olds for “risk alleles” on a gene associated with a predisposition to obesity, increased BMI and increased waist circumference.

Of those tested, 15% had inherited the genetic risk from both parents, while another 20% had inherited risk from a single parent. The remaining 65% did not carry the allele. As do African Americans, Americans of Mexican origin display higher levels of obesity and overweight status than Caucasian Americans.

Differences in obesity rates among ethnic groups are a result of a multifaceted set of conditions that include cultural influences, geography, socioeconomic impacts, income and education—all affecting availability and intake of particular foods. Add in personal and familial food preferences, and the challenges of tailoring effective foods and beverages to the population as a whole only become more complicated.

The CDC has noted some 30 different diseases and health conditions associated with overweight/obesity, headed by diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, hypertension, cancer, arthritis, pulmonary disorders and a litany of interrelated conditions. Obesity has been recognized as being associated with systemic inflammation, in addition to the above interrelated ailments.

Currently, one of the biggest medical concerns related to obesity involves the skyrocketing prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). An overview of the epidemic was provided by researchers Shira Zelber-Sagi, Ph.D., and Ran Oren, MD, at the Department of Gastroenterology for the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. In a 2011 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterolology, the researchers presented estimates suggesting “about 20-30% of adults in developed countries have excess fat accumulation in the liver—50% among people with diabetes and about 80% in the obese and morbidly obese.”

According to Zelber-Sagi and Oren, the high prevalence of NAFLD in Western countries is “probably due to the contemporary epidemics of obesity and associated metabolic complications.” Recognizing that “obesity, type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia are recognized as risk factors for NAFLD,” it also was noted that insulin resistance—a precursor to diabetes in which the body no longer responds effectively to insulin—is frequently associated with NAFLD.

The comprehensive study discussed multiple intervention scenarios, including low-fat and low-dietary cholesterol diets, and the beneficial inclusion of olive oil, vitamin D and vitamin E supplementation.


Weight by Numbers

When a software company commissioned a survey of the obesity epidemic in the U.S., they uncovered some surprising facts. The Healthy World Report entitled “The Obesity Epidemic: Unhealthy Habits Result in a Growing Problem for Americans” was released last summer by Televox Software Inc.

Results indicated that most Americans feel they need to lose weight, with 78% of those Americans polled saying they “could benefit from losing weight right now.” They also admitted to having “attempted to diet or lose weight nine times” in their life; only 37% reported being completely successful with an attempt to lose weight.

Interestingly, while research is investigating nature rather than nurture’s increasingly recognized role in obesity/overweight, nine out of 10 of the respondents in the Televox poll said they believe diet and exercise—not genetics—are the “biggest causes of obesity.”

Citing the need for healthcare providers to work with their clients to get the disease of obesity under control, Scott Zimmerman, Televox president, added: “We owe it to our children to find solutions that lead to better weight management. This epidemic is not the legacy that we want to leave to future generations.”

The good news is that the rate is slowing, compared to what it was. And, the CDC predicts in the next 20 years, the number of obese persons will be just over four in 10. Best of all, the child obesity rate seems to have plateaued. While this is certainly related to aggressive awareness and education campaigns—reflected in the personal awareness and interest results from the Televox study—not a small amount of credit goes to food and beverage manufacturers.

Most processors have spent the past two decades or so devoting billions of dollars in time, money, clinical research, personnel and R&D toward creating diet foods people not only want and enjoy eating, but which they actually prefer. At around $30 billion per year in sales, there obviously is a consumer demand for weight management products that manufacturers are interested in fulfilling. But, the more casual days of simply dropping some fat and calories from a formulation, or declaring serving sizes that bordered on fictional, have given way to a genuine, dedicated effort by processors to make truly, and proactively, healthful products.

The aforementioned Packaged Facts survey revealed that 28.9% of all adults meet the definition of “weight loss consumers:” those who declare they are “watching their diet to lose weight.” And, 13.1% consider themselves “weight maintenance consumers,” watching their diets in order to “maintain their weight.” As the number of overweight/obese adults increases, the latter category, too, will increase.

Shifting the focus to managing a healthy weight once it’s been attained has become as big an issue as weight loss, calling on processors to incorporate ingredients and create products that do more than just help that number on the scale inch down. The Packaged Facts survey found that nearly eight in 10 consumers approach weight management through making healthier choices, as opposed to merely eating less.

Thus, because they eat healthier and focus on their food’s nutritional value, consumers who are managing their weight surpass mainstream consumers in regard to healthy eating.


Survey Results

PF  found some continuing trends (for example, fiber still is the most popular weight-control ingredient) and zeroed in on some unique emerging (or re-emerging) ingredients. To view the entire survey, go to

Most of all, PF wanted to get a sense of industry professionals’ thoughts on guidelines, regulations and other weight management issues—and how this also impacts product development responsibilities.

In describing their relation with ingredients designed for weight management functionality, a slightly higher percentage of respondents are interested in weight management ingredients than are familiar with the types and specifics of those ingredients, with 33% of respondents reporting they are “very/extremely interested” and only 24% indicating they are “very” or “extremely” familiar with them. This means there is a great deal of room for—and responsibility on—ingredient makers to get the word out to the potential clients of the trillion-dollar food and beverage industry of what they can offer in both ingredients and development support, in general.

Slightly more than half of our respondents (51%), however, are “very” or “extremely” involved in the decision-making process regarding development or use of ingredients designed for weight management functionality. Yet, there’s something of a disconnect, in that only half of that group—26%—indicated weight management ingredients are very or extremely important to their company’s product development scheme.


Knowing Their Ingredients

The survey takers were presented with 39 common or emerging ingredients currently employed in foods, beverages and nutritional supplement products for weight management. Processors’ knowledge and feedback was sought on the identification, use and research for use of such ingredients as “Ingredients for Preventing Obesity;” “Ingredients for Preventing/Mitigating Symptoms of Diabetes;” “Ingredients for Losing Weight;” “Ingredients for Maintaining a Healthy Weight;” “Ingredients for Enhancing Satiety;” and “Ingredients for Boosting Energy.”

Two thirds (66%) of those completing the survey responded that they think the class of carbohydrate compounds (dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics and polysaccharides) assist in preventing obesity. About 40% of respondents think those same ingredients help prevent or mitigate the symptoms of diabetes.

Almost half (49%) indicated whole grains and seeds also can help prevent obesity, with slightly more than half—51%—believing use of whole grains and seeds actively assists in losing weight. But, that active weight-loss role saw dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics and polysaccharides edge down from two thirds to 60% in this aspect.

While those queried believing dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics and polysaccharides can help in maintaining a healthy weight also numbered two thirds (67%) of respondents, the number attributing this benefit to whole grains and seeds climbed to 57%.


Each According to its Ability

This year once again, dietary fiber/gums/prebiotics/polysaccharides were selected as the number one ingredient for assisting with all weight management issues, except boosting energy. Maintaining its popularity of the past several years, protein ingredients were categorized by respondents as being the best for enhancing satiety.

There are several speculations as to why 16% of this year’s respondents claim they have not used any of the ingredients presented in the survey in formulation in the past two years. Nearly a third hadn’t even researched these ingredients in the same period of time.

It is possible there’s a lack of familiarity with newer ingredients coming to the forefront; or a slowdown in product development, in general, due to the economic downturn; or even regulatory issues that seem to change on an annual basis. Another possibility is that some of the ingredients really are in use, yet have become such a routine part of the producers’ formulation they have “forgotten they’re there.” Various fibers and starches are the most likely, since they serve dual functions of health and texture modification.

However, the most important part of this statistic is that more than eight in 10 food and beverage processors are using at least one ingredient that can serve the purpose of helping the consumer manage their weight. Therefore, it can be assumed that most makers of today’s foods and beverages are making them healthy and functional, and are actively interested in the ingredients that help them effect this.

Of those who have used the ingredients listed, the most turned-to ingredients include: dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides, whole grains and seeds, proteins (including dairy proteins, such as whey and casein), spices/spice extracts and artificial sweeteners.

Speaking of artificial sweeteners, stevia’s positioning as a weight management and diabetes mitigation ingredient has become strong. It was chosen by a statistically significant, greater proportion of respondents who are more familiar with weight management ingredients as being able to assist in preventing/mitigating symptoms of diabetes.

Stevia even showed itself as being more significantly associated with diabetic health than artificial sweeteners and malts, syrups, and other low-calorie sweeteners. Monkfruit, listed in this survey by its Asian name luo han guo, was recognized as important for diabetes by 10% of respondents. Conversely, monkfruit has been enjoying a rapid increase in use and popularity, so it could be a matter of name recognition rather than ingredient acceptance.


Satisfaction Guaranteed

Around the close of the last century, satiety was finally recognized as a huge aspect of weight management, with inroads made by protein over the past decades taking over some of the territory once exclusively held by fiber.

So, while respondents include all forms of protein among the top ingredients that assist in enhancing satiety—54% for dairy proteins, 52% for other animal proteins—dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics and polysaccharides still attracted 66% of respondents as the top ingredient group in this category.

Plant proteins scored high, as well, with a surprising shift in non-soy proteins surpassing soy proteins, 42% to 37%. This is in perfect synch with the emerging trend of plant proteins, such as pea, rice and potato, as eagerly sought substitutes for soy.

As could be expected, in the category of boosting energy, stimulants in general (at 54% of respondents) and, specifically, green tea, tea extracts and green coffee extracts, scored big at nearly half (47%). But, also interesting is that vitamins B1-6 and B12 (42%), as well as ginseng (41%) and guarana (27%), also gave significant showings. But, 27% of processors also believe consumers can count on a boost of energy through animal proteins. Ginger and omega fatty acids—not typically associated with energy—still impressed almost one in five processors as such ingredients.

Interestingly, nuts and seeds were recognized as energy ingredients by one in six respondents, which shows recognition that concentrated sources of the tight kinds of calories (nuts are predominantly good fat and protein) have more benefit than previously recognized. This is certainly due consumers not having knee-jerk reactions to dietary fats and recognizing their positive health value.


Having a Voice

The industry professionals who took the PF survey have certainly taken the natural approach to developing products. Well over half acknowledged that having ingredients labeled as natural (59%) and/or certified pure and accurate (53%) are the most important of to their companies. And, four in 10 of those asked disclosed that being certified as kosher or halal is most important. Studies demonstrate that these religious certifications are favored by the general consumer more for the perception of being more safe and pure than “mainstream” manufactured products.

Fair trade and sustainably derived, manufactured and processed ingredients made a strong showing at 25% and 31%, respectively. Patriotism—at least of a continent-encompassing variety—made a surprising appearance, in that ingredients labeled as “made in the USA” or “made in Canada” were most important to 44% of respondents.

These attributes are far more important than having them certified-organic (17%) or vegan/vegetarian (16%), but that’s still about one in six respondents focusing on these still-growing trends.

Respondents to this year’s survey agreed that consumers typically change their food choices, rather than their lifestyle/exercise choices, in order to control their weight. Most respondents feel consumers focus on quick-fix fad diets, rather than balanced diets to do so.

Manufacturers seem well tuned-in to today’s rampant culture of blame and aversion to personal responsibility. Six in 10 feel consumers blame food manufacturers and restaurants for the obesity/overweight crisis. And, half (51%) feel that the nutritional profile of processed and prepared foods sold in foodservice is far less important to consumers than what is sold as packaged foods in retail stores.

These are just some of the mixed messages manufacturers believe they are dealing with, as they try to navigate the weight management product seas. Producers are aware that consumers will pay a premium for great-tasting, processed prepared foods that can help manage their weight and seem confident that a perceived increase of consumer pressure to provide more nutritional information on foodservice products will significantly impact the nutritional profile of these foods.


Challenges to Success

There are certain logistics product manufacturers recognize they must face in creating the next generation of weight management products. Respondents feel that regulatory issues impose on functional food and beverage product development.

In delineating the barriers specific to getting weight management products to market, 71% of respondents say regulatory issues have become increasingly complicating factors in developing functional foods and beverages. Two thirds—66%—note that purity of ingredients, including accurate measure of active components, is becoming an increasingly important issue in creating foods and beverages with ingredients for weight management.

Two in three manufacturers (65%) also feel increasing regulatory pressure to provide more nutritional information on foodservice products will significantly impact the nutritional profile of these foods. Meanwhile, almost half (49%) find cost-cutting measures in production and control are making it harder to create and manufacture high-quality functional products. Just over a third, 34%, worry there is too little government oversight of what can and cannot be called a weight management or diabetic-friendly product. 



 BNP Media’s Market Research Division and Prepared Foodsmagazine conducted the survey. Prepared Foods received more than 100 responses from active, qualified subscribers, contacted through e-mail via random sampling. The survey was open from August 28 through September 11, 2013. The publisher, editors and staff of Prepared Foods, and BNP Media, wish to thank all who participated and congratulate the winners (chosen at random from the respondents) of the four $100 American Express gift checks.  

2013 Obesity and Weight Management Ingredients

The following ingredients were researched in this survey to assess their familiarity and use in obesity and weight management formulations. The complete survey is available on the and websites. ( 


  • Antioxidants
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Calcium
  • L-carnitine
  • Chitosan/D-glucosamine
  • Cholecystokinin/CCK
  • Chromium
  • Cinnamon
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • Diacylglycerol (DAG)
  • Dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides
  • Enzymes
  • Flax, chia
  • Fucoxanthin
  • Garcinia cambogia
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts
  • Guarana
  • Hoodia gordonii
  • Luo han guo (monkfruit)
  • Malts, syrups, other low-cal sweeteners
  • Medium-chain triglycerides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Probiotics
  • Proteins (animal)
  • Proteins (dairy)
  • Proteins (non-soy, plant)
  • Proteins (soy)
  • Resistant starch
  • Ribose/D-ribose
  • Spices/Spice extracts
  • Stevia
  • Stimulants
  • Sugar alcohols
  • Vitamins B1-6, B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Whole grains/Seeds


2013 Functional Ingredient Top 10 List

The following statistics are how this year’s survey respondents ranked ingredients used to perform functions indirectly related to weight management. 


Preventing/Mitigating Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides       42%
  • Stevia  41%
  • Whole grains/Seeds    35%
  • Artificial sweeteners   31%
  • Antioxidants    29%
  • Flax, chia         26%
  • Omega-3 fatty acids   23%
  • Proteins (animal)        22%
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts          20%
  • Cinnamon        20%

Boosting Energy

  • Stimulants       54%
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts          47%
  • Vitamins B1-6, B12     42%
  • Ginseng           41%
  • Antioxidants    39%
  • Guarana          27%
  • Proteins (animal)        27%
  • Ginger 19%
  • Omega-3 fatty acids   17%
  • Proteins (dairy)           17%


2013 Obesity and Weight Management Ingredient Top 10 List

The following statistics dilineate how this year’s survey respondents ranked ingredients used in weight management formulations. 


Preventing Obesity

  • Dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides       66%
  • Whole grains/Seeds    49%
  • Stevia  41%
  • Artificial sweeteners   37%
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts          37%
  • Proteins (animal)        33%
  • Proteins (dairy)           31%
  • Proteins (soy)  31%
  • Flax, chia         30%
  • Antioxidants    29%

Losing Weight

  • Dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides       60%
  • Whole grains/Seeds    51%
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts          48%
  • Proteins (animal)        38%
  • Stevia  37%
  • Antioxidants    33%
  • Flax, chia         32%
  • Artificial sweeteners   29%
  • Proteins (dairy)           28%
  • Stimulants       28%

Maintaining Healthy Weight

  • Dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides       65%
  • Whole grains/Seeds    57%
  • Proteins (animal)        44%
  • Antioxidants    42%
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts          42%
  • Proteins (dairy)           42%
  • Proteins (soy)  39%
  • Proteins (non-soy, plant)         34%
  • Flax, chia         32%
  • Probiotics        32%

Enhancing Satiety

  • Dietary fiber, gums, prebiotics, polysaccharides       66%
  • Proteins (dairy)           54%
  • Proteins (animal)        52%
  • Whole grains/Seeds    52%
  • Proteins (non-soy, plant)         42%
  • Proteins (soy)  37%
  • Resistant Starch          24%
  • Flax, chia         23%
  • Omega-3 fatty acids   16%
  • Green tea, tea extracts, green coffee extracts          13%


Percentage of Adult Population Overweight or Obese, by Ethnic Group

Classification  All  Non-Hispanic White Non-Hispanic Black                 All Hispanics              Mexican-American      
Overweight (including obese)      68.8% 66.7% 76.7% 78.8% 81.2%
Obese only  35.7% 34.3% 49.5% 39.1% 40.4%

Overweight = BMI of 25.0 or higher

Obese = BMI of 30.0 or higher

Note: U.S. adults age 20 and over; age-adjusted to the year 2000 Census population

Source: “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” (NHANES)/National Center for Health Statistics/U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2009-2010.