Here’s news for a new year. Most adults agree that eating a well-rounded diet is better than diet products. Put another way, it’s becoming clear that diet-focused products face a challenge of consumers’ shifting perceptions. Today, a majority of those surveyed agree it is better to eat a well-rounded diet than to use diet products.

That summary comes from Mintel’s October 2015 report titled, “Diet Trends-US, What’s Next?”

Analysts say their findings are particularly relevant to adults, ages 45 or older. Mintel suggests that weight management products and services no longer be marketed as meal substitutes. Rather, they should emphasize benefits—such as reducing hunger between meals—with their products complementing a healthy, balanced diet.

Interestingly, nearly three-fourths of adults agree that dieting is worth the effort to achieve their ideal weight. This resonates most with adults who are trying to lose weight—as well as those maintaining their weight. Surveys suggest that consumers may appreciate motivation from family and friends (the top source for diet information), perhaps via a weekly email that reminds them that their effort is worth the payoff of reaching their goals.

In the context of dieting, most consumers don’t want to be deprived; it is important to be able to have their favorite foods. While people have good intentions, indulgent choices are seemingly too tempting.

Said one 45-54 year-old female survey respondent, “Barriers for me are my sweet tooth and lack of will power. I think these are so hard to overcome because I am a stress eater or I eat out of boredom. My job is mentally and physically demanding and I reward myself after a hard day with my favorite foods.”

Meanwhile, it literally should become easier to weigh calorie considerations. The US Food and Drug

Administration has proposed an update to the Nutrition Facts label, which should make it easier for consumers to make informed choices about the packaged goods they consume. A few of the updates include: larger font size, prominent placement of calories, and the serving size that accurately reflects how the product is consumed. If a product that contains more than one serving is consumed in one sitting, the total caloric impact will easily be seen on the Nutrition Facts label and is expected to help consumers make better, informed decisions.

For two-thirds of people, committing to a long-term diet is an obstacle.  More specifically, women and adults considered obese most strongly agree with this matter. In order to satisfy consumer’s desire to treat themselves, diet plans that account for “cheat” days could produce more long-term success.

“I assume earning some sort of monetary incentive for reaching specific goals or something like that would help keep me motivated to stick to the diet,” says one 25 to 34-year-old male survey participant. “The main thing to deal with is providing enough of a trade-off that the food becomes less important than the incentive.”

It’s clear that consumers are concerned about the healthiness of diet foods and drinks—as well as diets in general. Consumers may be more interested in products that downplay the phrase “diet” by instead promoting nutritional ingredients or calorie composition that can assist in weight management.

In addition to these concerns, adults (particularly men 18-54 years old) place more importance on exercising than diet when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise and diet are equally important to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, and weight management brands should encourage regular physical activity in addition to dieting products and services for weight loss.

Lean Cuisine’s new community, “Wellbeing,” utilized the MapMyFitness app from September 9, 2015 until October 9, 2015 to reward community members with a chance to win Under Armour gift cards for logging walks, runs, rides, or workout classes.

Looking more closely at consumer groups, Mintel finds that—compared to non-Hispanics—Hispanic adults are more likely to agree that planning and making healthy meals takes too much time and that eating healthy is expensive. This is a good opportunity for weight management brands to offer quick, easy mealtime solutions with a nod to traditional cuisines. Meanwhile, these brands also should reinforce that the savings in time outweighs the associated costs.

Target More Than Weight

Achieving a healthy body weight can be attributed to a reduction in risk for certain health issues, such as heart disease, gastrointestinal ailments, and type-2 diabetes. Some diet brands are offering targeted nutrition to support overall health.

Based on Mintel’s Heart Health – US, May 2015 Report, a healthy diet is the key to warding off heart disease, and consumers acknowledge poor diet, having an elevated body weight, and too much bad cholesterol as main contributors to heart disease. Ensure’s Active Heart Health Nutrition Shakes support heart health with phytosterols (which claims to help lower cholesterol) and potassium (which may reduce the risk of high blood pressure).

Digestive health products, such as Benefiber Healthy Shape and Skinny Gut Ultimate Shake, promote the weight-loss benefits of high-fiber supplements. As noted in Mintel’s Digestive Health – US, July 2015, several recent diet books have highlighted the benefits of digestive health as a key to weight loss and improved wellness. These new diet guides could increase demand for fiber supplements, as consumers seek to improve their digestive health and shed some pounds in the process.

Based on Mintel’s Diabetes – US, August 2014, about 50% of adults with diabetes think that managing it is overwhelming, as planning meals and food choices can be stressful. Meal replacements are noted as a beneficial way to help people suffering from diabetes manage their diet, as they are an easy and convenient way to get the specific nutrition they need. Level Life offers an assortment of products designed for those with diabetes to help keep their blood sugars level, lose weight, and fight hunger.

Mintel research shows that consumers now expect that customized offering of products and services be brought directly to them, wherever they are. If that’s the case, diet products and services offered on demand could help keep consumers accountable and on track with their weight management goals by keeping products on hand or getting them on hand quickly.

NuGo Fiber d’Lish, a line of fiber-rich low-calorie bars, offers Club d’Lish. People can join the club and receive a 30% discount, free shipping, ability to mix flavors in their order, and set a repeating delivery schedule; all of which can be cancelled at any time with no fees.

Bulu Box, a custom-filled health-and-nutrition or weight-loss box, contains a mix of new samples (mailed out monthly based on subscription frequency). Upon signing up, consumers set up a profile to gauge their level of health and interest in certain types of products (eg improving immunity, appetite control). In addition to monthly samples, users earn points after filling out product reviews and use rewards toward purchasing full-size products. NightFood, a nighttime nutrition bar is one of many offerings that could be included in a Bulu Box.

Sprig, an app-based service that launched in 2013, allows users to select a meal from three-to-five healthy, organic choices. Once the purchase is confirmed (meals start at $9.00) a server arrives within 15 minutes to the consumer’s location and delivers a healthy, hot meal that is ready to enjoy. Sprig currently operates in San Francisco and Chicago.

Future Forward

IoT (The Internet of Things) is a network of physical “things” embedded with software and sensors that connect these “things” to collect and exchange data. Many IoT products already are positioned for weight management, like FitBit’s Aria smart scale, which can track weight, BMI, lean mass, and body fat percentage. Smartphone apps, like My Net Diary PRO, track calories and offer diet advice based on consumption and can also educate users on their food choices by using the UPC scanner to identify nutritional information.

On the horizon are even more advancements in IoT, which will help guide consumers toward making healthier nutrition choices and provide the motivation needed to achieve weight goals.

Smart watches could track calorie intake and reveal remaining calorie consumption to reach weight management goals without manual input. Smart shopping carts could ensure only diet-approved items make it into the cart at the store. Smart mirrors could reveal a person’s appearance at their target weight in order to keep up motivation; the smart mirror also could provide data with the number of calories needed in order to reach a desired weight.

Smart refrigerators could confirm healthy food options are in stock, and it could read nutritional information on the products in the refrigerator, pushing the information to an app that could suggest low-calorie recipes based on the available items in the refrigerator. Ultimately, all these smart devices will sync together to create a seamless dieting experience.

Mintel Trend Help Me Help Myself acknowledges that consumers are seeking tools to help them stay on track with their personal goals and live better on a daily basis; and according to Mintel’s Living Online – US, May 2014, 34% of adults seek online assistance in managing their diet, compared to 21% offline.

Prepared Foods’ News:

South Beach Name Change

Elise Donahue, CEO for South Beach Diet, used Prepared Foods’ annual New Products Conference last September to discuss weight management trends—and announce an important change at her own company. Starting late last fall, the popular diet brand was changing its name (as well as all packaging graphics) to embrace a wider, healthier stance as “South Beach Living.” New packaging is rolling out to supermarket shelves.

Prepared Foods’ News:

Glanbia Buying thinkThin

Glanbia plc, Kilkenny, Ireland, expected by the end of 2015 to acquire thinkThin LLC in a cash transaction valued at $217 million.

thinkThin, Los Angeles, markets nutrition bars and bites (protein, protein and fiber) as well protein and fiber oatmeal. Officials said net sales for the 12 months to the end of September 2015 were $84 million, with a compound average growth rate for the previous three years of 31%.

Announcing the November deal was Siobhán Talbot, Glanbia Group managing director.

“I am very pleased to announce that we have reached agreement to acquire thinkThin,” he said. “As a premium lifestyle nutrition product with very strong brand equity, thinkThin represents an excellent strategic addition to our portfolio of market leading performance nutrition brands. The transaction is firmly aligned with our overall growth ambitions and positions us well in the fast growing nutrition bar category as well as being value enhancing for our shareholders.”

Officials say thinkThin will increase Glanbia Performance Nutrition’s (“GPN”) presence in the bar category and provide exposure to the rapidly expanding nutrition bar segment, which is valued at $2.8 billion in US retail.  In addition, thinkThin provides a platform for GPN to enter the “better for you” snack products category as well as augment the GPN brand portfolio in its existing channels.