Low-carb bug not catching on in Europe

The low-carb product explosion that has so drastically reshaped the US food industry will not take off in Europe, according to market researcher Mintel. While US low-carb launches have run at better than one a day for the past two years, European activity has been conspicuous by its almost complete absence, except for a few products established in the UK by US brands, such as Atkins Nutritionals (bars, cake mixes and shakes), CarboLite (bars and confectionery), and Michelob (beer).

?In most of Europe, low-carb dieting has not taken off at all,? observed David Jago, the UK-based editorial director of Mintel?s global new-products database. ?In the UK it is popular, but people are eating low-carb in their own way, which often means eating foods that are naturally low-carb like meats and nuts. They are not going for the quick-fix products that are so popular in the US.?

Mainland Europeans who choose to eat low-carb would be unlikely to opt for low- carb products, agreed Peter Wennstr?m, of Swedish market consultancy Wennstr?m Integrated. ?Low-carb products may take off in the UK to some extent, but it is unlikely in the rest of Europe where consumers are less interested in quick-fix products,? he said.

Atkins Nutritionals and Carbolite Foods spokespeople said sales had exceeded expectations in the few months their products had been available in the UK, and more retail outlets were seeking to stock their products. Neither had plans to expand into other European markets in 2004.

Kraft, Heinz and Unilever—all of which have low-carb ranges in the US—said they had no immediate plans to launch European low-carb products. Kellogg?s, which has low-carb products in the US, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

Low-Carb Product Launches, 2000-March 15, 2004

Country

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Total

Canada

0

0

11

32

38

81

Israel

0

0

1

0

0

1

South Africa

0

0

1

0

0

1

UK

0

1

0

5

15

21

USA

21

91

88

369

361

930

Total

21

92

101

405

414

1034

Source: Mintel?s Global New Products Database


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