Diet Foods See Sales Slow As Brits Turn To Smaller Portions And Exercise

Sales of weight control foods having risen by just 10% to £1.6 billion between 2007 and 2012, with the market at a standstill in 2012, according to Mintel research.

The number of consumers looking out for light or diet food and drink products has also slipped, with one in five (19%) Brits using diet food and drink, down from 21% in 2008.

In addition, just 5% of Brits use diet products, such as appetite controllers and meal replacements.

Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel said in a statement said the decrease in diet food and drink sales was not because we are less willing to lose weight, but because we were finding other ways of doing it.

“The turbulent economic landscape, squeezed disposable incomes and low consumer confidence have stifled growth in the market, as financially straightened Britons turned to cheaper methods of weight management, such as eating smaller portions and cutting back on certain types of food," she explained.

"When asked about light and low-fat foods, the overriding perception held by three quarters of the population (76%) is that diet products are overpriced... (there is also) widespread scepticism over the health credentials of foods labelled as diet, low fat or low calorie. Indeed, while seven in 10 (71%) feel it is difficult to know how healthy these products genuinely are, half (51%) of Britons actively distrust them, driven by concerns which linger over the ingredients or sweeteners they contain."

Today, the top five ways Brits choose to manage weight are:

1) Exercise more (60%)

2) Eat small portions (55%)

3) Cut back on fatty foods (53%)

4) Cut back on sugary foods and drink (54%) and

5) Cut back on desserts (46%)

Competition from products which are naturally lower in calories is a major issue for the market, and almost half (48%) of adults prefer these products over reduced calorie alternatives. The top health claims consumers look for are low fat (52%), part of my five a day (49%), unprocessed 43%, low sugar 43% and low calorie (40%).

“In order to win consumers' trust and compete with naturally low-calorie foods it is vital that manufacturers offer consumers greater transparency in terms of their ingredients and what constitutes them being 'diet'." Clifford said.

Within the market, biscuits (which include cereal bars) account for the largest share of the identified diet and weight control food sales, accounting for 31p in every £1 spent.

The diet and weight control yogurt sector has seen sales slip in 2012 to an estimated £334 million related to ramped-up competition from more indulgent yogurts and functional yogurts. The most notable declines are estimated to be witnessed in the chilled and frozen ready meals segments, which are forecast to decline by 17% and 14% year on year respectively.

Overall, the diet and weight control foods market is made up of biscuits (31%), yogurt (21%), yellow fats (13%), breakfast cereal (7%), salad dressings (6%) bread (6%) chilled ready meals (6%), frozen ready meals (4%) artificial sweeteners (4%) and ice cream (2%).

Clifford also predicted a rise in the number of diet apps. “Consumers are becoming more data-driven and consumers are increasingly turning to technology to build 'personal dashboards'. These can lend consumers a sense of control over the many facets of their busy lives, with the ultimate aim of self-betterment."