Low-carbohydrate craze sweeps the US

Low-carb foods have huge marketing potentialLow-carb foods have a huge market potential, according to a consumer survey that shows that 28 per cent of Americans will be purchasing low-carbohydrate foods in the next year, while an additional 19.4 per cent are considering adopting a low-carb diet.

The research conducted by Cincinnati consulting firm The Valen Group found that 59 million Americans (or 28.3 per cent of the population) already limit their carbohydrate intake to some degree, and one-third of those are on a strict low-carb diet, such as Atkins or South Beach.

The study, which surveyed 1,182 randomised US adults, also found that carbohydrate-conscience consumers span all spectrums of age, gender and socio-economic class. Low-carb diets enjoy a surprisingly high level of consumer awareness with 84.1 per cent claiming to know about low-carb principles.

Speaking at the recent LowCarbiz Summit in Denver, Colorado—the first such convention of its kind—The Valen Group CEO Gus Valen insisted that low-carbohydrate eating will not just be another diet fad.

While he admitted that the size of the low-carb economy is exceedingly difficult to measure, he estimates $15 billion in products, services and books were sold in 2003—excluding the sales of meat, cheese and eggs, which are a staple to low-carb consumers. "We estimate a $25-$30 billion market in 2004," he predicted.

Other consulting firms have estimated more modest figures. San Diego-based Nutrition Business Journal estimates sales of low-carb foods reached $1.4 billion in 2003 and could eventually reach $3 billion (again excluding meat, cheese and egg sales).

The LowCarbiz Summit, which attracted 400 attendees, was organised by the founder of LowCarbiz.com, Dean Rotbart; a second low-carb conference is planned on May 5-6 in Washington, DC.

Rotbart is also the organiser of a new nonprofit association based in Denver called the Low Carb Consumers League (LCCL), which is working to develop a Low Carb Certified seal—a truth-in-labelling programme that LCCL manufacturers will be required to adopt.

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