Weighing in on the weight control market

Consumers are desperately seeking new weight control products which are convenient and which provide an effective solution to weight loss. Although the manner and motivations by which Americans' "diet" has changed dramatically, sales in this market already exceed $46 billion and supplement, functional food and pharmaceutical marketers are following suit.

It's a very BIG market! According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention more than half—97 million—of all adults are overweight... 51% of women and 59 per cent of men. Characterised by a BMI > 30, nearly one-quarter— or 39 million—adults are obese... 25 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men. A Natural Marketing Institute survey found that 38 per cent of all American households had a member trying to lose weight for appearance and 23 per cent for health reasons, while slightly more than one in four shoppers increased their use of weight control products last year.

And, as 72 million "Baby Boomers" turn age 50—a pivotal age for weight—the market will get even larger. Gallup/Multi-Sponsor surveys projects that the incidence of overweight women will increase 12 per cent by 2005 and that those trying to lose weight for health reasons will jump +8.3 million to 92.7 million, while more traditional weight loss dieters will rise 5.8 million to 68 million, although some will have both motivations. Perhaps most importantly, with one in four children now overweight, not only will kid-friendly products be in great demand, but this young generation will ensure a strong nutraceutical weight segment for decades to come.

In its new "Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss Report," Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) estimates the size of the US weight-loss market at $46.5 billion. Eighty six per cent of sales are attributed to 'lesser evil' foods, or those foods—such as low fat, low calorie, sugar free, diet sodas. Weight-loss supplements &—which are sold primarily in pill and liquid meal replacement form—totalled $3.36 billion.

Liquid meal replacement supplements account for slightly more than half of all weight-loss supplement sales. Meal supplements are shelf stable liquid nutritional formulae created primarily as a meal substitute. NBJ estimates that about 80 per cent are used for weight control purposes. Slim Fast, Ensure, Nestlé Sweet Success, Boost, PediaSure and Sustacal are the leading meal supplement brands produced by mainstream manufacturers. Sports nutrition companies such as Weider, Twinlab, MET-Rx, EAS and MLO Products also participate. In the mass market, Slim-Fast Foods Co.— now owned by Unilever—continues its domination, followed by Ross Laboratories, Mead Johnson, private label products and Nestlé.

During the past year, undoubtedly the greatest excitement has occurred in the supplement pill segment, growing 12.4 per cent in 2000 according to NBJ. In fact, Information Resources reports sales of thermogenic diet pills nearly doubled in the mass market. The category was ignited by the launch of several herbal formulations with ma huang (also known as ephedra). Ma huang-based pills, which typically use the prefix "Metabo," have been widely seen as simultaneously accelerating calorie consumption and suppressing appetite. Top brands in the mass market include Rexall Sundown Inc.'s— now owned by GNC/Royal Numico—Metab-O-Lite; Metabolife 356 from Metabolife International Inc.; Telebrands Corp.'s Metabolize and $ave; and Metabolift from Twinlab Corp. Use of ephedra, particularly in combination with caffeine, has drawn regulatory scrutiny. As a result, some supplements, such as Nutratech's Advantra Z, are marketed as an alternative to ephedra with a powerful thermogenic ingredient, while Rainbow Light offers Spirulina Herbal Diet and Garcinia-Max Diet System as holistic alternatives marketed as food-based supplements.

At the present time, most weight-loss pill-form supplement sales are herbal blends or mixed formulae. They usually contain several common ingredients: chromium, chromium picolinate, CLA, HCA, guarana, caffeine, ginseng, green tea, chitosan, cholecystokinin/CCK, synephrine and, more often than not, ephedra. They may also contain vitamins, minerals, fibres, inisitol, chitin, specialty and sports nutrition ingredients to enhance their benefit. According to NBJ, single category herbs make up less than 20 per cent of herbal weight-loss products. Other herbal ingredients often included: psyllium, aloe, senna, willowbark, Garcinia cambogia, yerba mate, Sida codifolia, kola nut, Bladder wrack, yohimbe, Commiphora mukal, Piper longum, burdock, dandelion, nettles and others.

And, then there's food. Almost three-quarters of all primary household grocery shoppers confess that their purchases were "at least a little influenced" by their desire to control weight, reports the Food Marketing Institute. Although nearly nine in ten Americans used low fat foods last year and 85 per cent low calorie, one-third of all shoppers say they increased usage of low calorie foods, according to the Natural Marketing Institute. In a recent survey by Food Processing magazine of the top 400 U.S. food companies' executives, functional foods and nutraceuticals topped the list of the most important food categories for growth, but reduced calorie foods ranked 4th and low fat 9th. Not surprisingly, new products that actively promote some form of low calorie, reduced calorie or weight-oriented claim—either on the package or in trade literature—jumped 115 per cent in 2000 vs.1999 and 60 per cent in 1999 vs.1998, according to New Product News. Low fat product introductions also came back strong last year with 1,057 new products vs. 481 in 1999, although still down from the 1996 high of 1,914.

During the past two years, two unique trends have emerged in the food oriented weight control market. First, high protein-low carbohydrate products led by the Atkins Diet and his Advantage line. Secondly, a new trend to high satiety foods has begun to take shape. With lunch and dinner being eaten later, satiety products address a need to stay "full" longer and avoid unhealthy snacking. Satietrol, a new line of natural appetite control powdered beverage, Functional Foods Inc.'s Lean on Me weight control snack for women—currently being tested at Baylor Medical School's Weight Loss Center —Kashi Go-Lean Cereal Slimming System, along with more traditional products like Dannon's new Light 'n Fit Yoghurt and Blue Bunny Lite 85 (first yoghurt with sucralose) are some of the latest market entries. From an ingredient standpoint, calorie reduction agents, consisting of fat reducers and non-nutritive sweeteners, are the largest single food additive category valued at $1.3 billion. Sales are predicted to continue to increase to $1.9 billion in 2002 by Business Communications Co. (Norwalk, CT).

American women's desire to lose 20 pounds is at an all time high. In fact, according to an innovative new study by the NPD Group, "Dieting in America: The Skinny on Women, Health and Diet," 65 per cent of meal preparers fall into this category. In a detailed analysis of the "dieting" market, The NPD Group has found that almost half of all women are actively monitoring their diet and weight concerns are a key part of that!

NPD has identified three market sub-segments: healthy dieters, radical dieters and balanced women. In contrast to the 51 per cent of apathetic eaters who are not on a diet and tend to have an unhealthy diet status, 13 per cent have been classified as healthy dieters, who are on a diet and have a healthy diet state, and 16 per cent as radical dieters who are on a diet, but have a more unhealthy dietary state. SloanTrends TrendSense system, which predicts the timing and sustainability of nutraceutical markets, confirms that the weight loss, obesity, and satiety markets will be strong and sustainable, although the childhood obesity market is still 12 months away. Health food/natural retailers predicted in the Whole Foods Annual Supplement survey that weight control supplements would be in the top five "hottest" product categories for growth in the next few years along with MSM, glucosamine/chondroitin, SAM-e and IP.

—Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan
Sloan Trends & Solutions, Inc.
P.O. Box 461149
Escondido, CA 92046
Tel: +1-760-741-9611
Fax: +760-741-9711
E-mail: [email protected]

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