Weighing the odds: Diet products fall out of favor as 91% of US consumers prefer well rounded diets

January 8, 2016

For some Americans the new year marks the start of a new diet, but according to the latest research from Mintel, many Americans aren’t so quick to jump on the latest fad bandwagon. Instead, they are adopting a sensible attitude towards dieting as 91 percent of US consumers believe it is better to eat a well-rounded diet than use diet products.

What’s more, sales of weight-control tablets continue to decline at an excessive rate; nearly 20 percent for the 52-weeks ending July 2015, highlighting the pressure which diet-focused products face from consumers’ shifting perception towards a well-rounded diet.

Indeed,  Mintel research reveals concern over the healthiness of diet foods and drinks, as well as diets in general, is high with almost eight in 10 (77 percent) US consumers agreeing that diet products are not as healthy as they claim to be, and three in five (61 percent) consumers believe that most diets are not actually healthy. Meanwhile, nearly three fourths (72 percent) of adults agree that dieting is worth the effort to achieve their ideal weight, yet just under seven in 10 (67 percent) consumers acknowledge it is difficult to stick with a diet long-term.

“Consumers are somewhat skeptical about diet products, and instead of purchasing traditional diet-specific products they are turning to a well-balanced diet and products that support it. The diet industry faces downward pressure as US adults remain skeptical of the ingredients in diet-specific products, their effectiveness in managing weight and the fact that in reality a magic weight loss pill likely doesn’t exist,” said Marissa Gilbert, Health & Wellness Analyst at Mintel.

While consumers accept the need to diet, for the majority of Americans, temptation can prove too much, as 80 percent of US consumers acknowledge that they try to eat healthily but some indulgent foods are just too tempting. But proving a little bit of what you crave does you good – some 84 percent of Americans believe it is important to treat themselves to their favorite foods.

“Most Americans don’t want to feel deprived while dieting, and despite good intentions, indulgent choices are tempting. However, many believe dieting is worth the effort in order to achieve their ideal weight,” continued Gilbert.

When asked about the methods and tools used for dieting – more than any other – dieters (past and present) are turning to calorie restriction to manage their weight. Indeed, half (50 percent) of US consumers who have managed their weight by diet have counted the calories making it the number one dieting method. The second most popular dieting method is the use of meal replacement shakes and bars (24 percent), followed by raw food or a vegetarian and vegan diet (19 percent), a high protein diet (18 percent), a nutrition based diet (17 percent) and utilizing a diet application on a mobile device (17 percent).

“Calorie restricting is a traditional method for losing weight and something consumers turn to without additional costs or resources. When consumers simply choose to reduce their calorie intake they are likely forgoing the use of diet-specific products and services. Alternatively they may have learned calorie restriction while on a diet program and while no longer active, could still use a similar approach on their own,” said Gilbert.

Overall, half (55 percent) of US consumers are currently trying to lose, maintain or gain weight through diet. Women aged 18-34 (44 percent) are most likely to be trying to lose weight by dieting compared to an average of one third (32 percent) of Americans. Men, largely those 55 or older (42 percent), are most likely to say they have never dieted for weight management compared to an average of one quarter (26 percent) of all Americans.

It seems the nation’s dieters are setting lofty goals, as those currently dieting to lose weight want to shed a substantial amount. Women aged 55 or older have the biggest weight-loss goals, making up the largest segment of American dieters hoping to lose 20 or more pounds. What’s more, Mintel research indicates that older dieters are much less likely than their younger counterparts to seek out diet information. Consumers age 55 or older who manage their weight with diet are nearly half as likely as 18-24 years olds to consult friends or family for diet information (28 percent vs 44 percent).

“This mature segment likely relies on their past experience with diets to inform their current choices, but could benefit from an updated understanding of the specific types of diets that work best for their life stage. Our research shows that older adults have the biggest weight-loss goals, so despite being a good target for diet-focused products and services, they are less likely to be seeking diet information. Within this older segment, men are least engaged in weight management, making male non-users most difficult to reach while presenting an area of great opportunity,” concluded Gilbert.

Press copies of the Diet Trends US 2015 report and interviews with Marissa Gilbert, Health & Wellness Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

Mintel News

For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel’s team of global category analysts.

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