Survey Indicates the Low Carb Lifestyle Shows Staying Power

New consumer research shows low carb momentum continues

Harleysville, Pa. (July 30, 2004) – The low carb movement is here to stay. According to new consumer research conducted in June 2004 by The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), based on a survey of 1,322 U.S. households, more than one in five (21%) Americans are currently attempting to maintain or lose weight by managing their carbohydrate intake. “People definitely consider the low carb approach to be legitimate,” notes Steve French, NMI’s Managing Partner. “Managing carbs is easily understood, has higher levels of success compared to many other weight loss methodologies, and there is a wide array of new scientific research substantiating the low carb approach.”

As the low carb phenomenon has far reaching implications across many industries, NMI has tracked consumer behavior shifts in a variety of ways. According to Mr. French, “In 2002, according to NMI’s 2004 Low Carb Weight Manager Report, we found that 17% of American adults had tried the low carb approach during the past year. This number grew to 24% in 2003 and reached one-third of the U.S. population based on a consumer study conducted in January of 2004.”

Given the dynamic nature of the low carb marketplace, NMI’s June 2004 research measured the proportion of Americans actually following the approach right now --- to provide a baseline for current behavior and continued trending. NMI’s finding, that active low-carb weight managers, known as LCWMs, currently comprise one-fifth of the adult population, is astounding and confirms the low carb lifestyle trend.

According to NMI, it is important to note that there are many ways to describe and categorize low carb consumer behavior. The June NMI survey indicated that a majority of LCWMs actively reduce sugar (65%), while 62% actively reduce starch-based foods. In addition, almost half of LCWMs use sugar substitutes (48%), with 47% increasing their protein intake. An impressive one-third of LCWMs say they use low-carb packaged foods and beverages (brand name products specifically designed with lower carbohydrate content). And almost one in five LCWMs follow a specific, formal low carb diet, such as Atkins, South Beach or other low carb program.

“While many Americans have adopted low carb behavior patterns, many LCWMs say they are actually following what NMI calls a “modified” version of a low carb diet program. In fact NMI would classify more than one-third of LCWMs (37%) as ‘modifiers,’ adapting Atkins or other programs to their own lifestyle,” French said. “Low-carb dieting seems to be somewhat of a do-it-yourself affair,” he added. This simplicity and adaptation flexibility will continue to drive the low carb marketplace for many years to come.

Whereby some short term sales trends of low carb packaged foods may have peaked, in part due to pantry loading and consumer trial, the staying power of the low carb approach is fundamentally rooted in consumers’ lifestyle. And with a meaningful portion of the American population utilizing a variety of methods to manage carb intake, continued momentum will fuel this trend across a variety of industries.


The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) is a leading strategic consulting, market research, and business development company specializing in the health, wellness, and sustainability marketplace. NMI maintains a range of proprietary consumer databases and research tools and works with clients across a range of industries. NMI also publishes more than 100 syndicated research reports, such as the 2004 Low Carb Weight Manager Report. For more information, call 215-513-7300 or visit

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