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Obesity rising despite diet foods boom

The increasingly mainstreamed diet foods and beverages markets in Europe and the US are recording rapid growth but doing little to reduce waistlines, according to market analyst Datamonitor.

The overall European market was expected to grow from $49.2 billion in 2004 to $58.2 billion by 2009, with the average per head spend increasing from $125 in 2004 to $147 in 2009. US consumers spent even more, at $154 per head in 2004 and expected to grow to $177 by 2009.

The French and Spanish diet food markets are set to show the fastest growth in Western Europe, with annual growth of 4.6 per cent and 4 per cent respectively while Swedish ($192) and Dutch ($173) consumers spent the most on diet food and drinks in 2004.

Datamonitor predicted the UK diet food and drink market would grow from $8 billion to $9.25 billion by 2009, an expansion of 15 per cent, with low-fat dairy products accounting for almost 40 per cent of UK expenditure on diet food and drink in 2004.

"High-fat ice cream, milk, cheese and cream products are often considered unacceptable when dieting, and many consumers following a healthy lifestyle will also avoid these foods, which are considered to be high in fat and cholesterol," said report author John Band. "As such, diet dairy products will remain very popular."

Datamonitor notes that at the height of the Atkins craze in 2004, 14.1 per cent of new food products claimed to be low-carb, making this the only claim ever to be more widespread than low-fat. By 2005 the market had fallen through the floor. "The high level of low-carb NPD was intimately linked to the temporary high popularity of a particular diet, but the ongoing dominant position of low-fat products reflects a long-term consumer health trend," Band said.

Despite all this activity, waistlines continue to grow with more than 70 per cent of Americans and 50 per cent of Europeans expected to be overweight or obese by 2009.

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