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Analyst Pulse: Trends in Global Weight Loss Diets

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Abstract: To better understand the trends in dieting and weight loss around the world, Passport Survey reached out to Euromonitor International’s global network of analysts from 80+ countries.


Fad diets sweep the globe

From intermittent fasting to meal-delivery programs to strict calorie counting, popular diets tend to be a direct reflection of other cultural trends, including media pressure to fit a certain body type and increasingly busy (and often sedentary) lifestyles coupled with rises in disposable income. Some recent fads include the Atkins diet, which saw its heyday in the early 2000s and focuses on limiting carbohydrates. Another example is the Paleo diet, popularly known as the “caveman diet,” which is based on eating only unprocessed foods, such as meat and vegetables that were
available during the Paleolithic era. To further explore the popularity of global weight loss diets around the world, Euromonitor turned to its network of analysts in over 80 countries.

An increasingly heavy global population

Weight issues are nothing new to developed markets around the world, particularly in countries such as the US where well over one-third of consumers are considered obese. Indeed, over half of all consumers in developed countries over the age of 14 were classified as overweight or obese in 2012. These weight issues are also beginning to emerge in developing markets, even as some segments in these markets are still struggling to get enough, rather than too much, to eat. Overeating is a particular problem among middle class consumers in emerging markets who have, in recent years, seen both rising disposable incomes and increased Westernization, especially in their food options. As a result, obesity rates in countries such as China and India are expected to at least double by 2020. With the rapid rise in obesity among emerging market consumers and continued increase in weight issues in developed countries, interest in (and money spent on) weight loss diets will likely remain high for the foreseeable future.

Awareness and use of diets

Many diets are well-known, but only a few are currently popular

While obesity may be a growing problem in emerging markets, exposure (or overexposure) to weight loss diets and fads has yet to reach the same levels as in developed countries, where  celebrities, health gurus, and the media have been espousing the merits of various diets for many decades. Even in these developed countries, however, widespread awareness of a particular diet
does not mean that it is currently popular among those trying to lose weight. Notably, over half of analysts agree that the Atkins diet is well-known by consumers in their country, but less than one-fifth said that this diet is currently popular. In contrast, only Weight Watchers is both relatively well-known and a popular choice among those aspiring to lose weight.

Gaps in Global Diet Recognition and Current Popularity

ScreenHunter_01 Aug. 16 15.43

Source:  Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; June 2013

Note: Showing percent of analysts reporting that indicated diet is well-known and/or currently popular among consumers in their country.Not showing diets with fewer than 5% of responses, including the DASH diet, McKenna diet, TLC diet, Portfolio diet, and Ornish diet.

Popular Diets by Region Weight

Watchers soars in US and Canada, while Dukan diet leads in Europe

While developed market consumers tend to be more aware of various weight loss plans, the popularity of a specific diet depends largely on location. Weight Watchers, currently the most favoured global diet, was founded in the 1960s in the US and remains a popular choice for American consumers, as well as those in Europe and Latin America. In contrast, Jenny Craig, another American-based weight loss plan, has failed to gain widespread popularity outside of the US. Other options such as the Fast Diet, which encourages intermittent fasting, and the Dukan diet, a protein-based eating plan, are much more popular in Europe than elsewhere. These regional variations may be less of a testament to the effectiveness of particular diets and more related to levels of marketing and general awareness among mainstream consumers. For example, the Dukan diet was first introduced in France in 2000 and has only, in the last couple years, made its way to the UK and the US. This is reflected in the relatively high popularity of the Dukan diet in Europe, compared with very low popularity in other regions.

Popular Weight Loss Diets

ScreenHunter_02 Aug. 16 15.47


Source:  Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; June 2013

Note: Showing percent of analysts reporting that the indicated diet is currently popular among consumers in their country.


More money, more weight problems?

Although many strive to shrink their waistlines, global weight management issues will only continue to grow, at least in the near-term. Obesity rates in developed markets are expected to continue their steady climb and rates in emerging markets are poised to explode, growing by as much as 72% in the BRIC countries between 2010 and 2020. While a wide variety of factors are contributing to this increase, rising disposable income, coupled with the spread of “Western” food options (such as fast food restaurants and ready meals), has certainly had a significant impact on the weight of many middle class consumers in emerging markets. As a result, countless opportunities for weight management companies and brands will develop as these consumers turn their focus to weight loss.

Adopting weight loss plans to meet the shifting needs of global consumers money

As cooking homemade meals becomes a lower priority for many global consumers in both developed and emerging markets, turning to fast food restaurants, ready meals, and pre-packaged food will likely become more common. In response, weight loss companies may be most successful by adopting their products to fit this new lifestyle, perhaps by offering meal delivery or pre-packaged ready meals to fit the needs of consumers who lack the time or skills necessary to prepare healthy food on their own.

Companies hoping to capitalize on the opportunity to move into new markets may want to consider partnering with existing food brands. This would allow them to quickly gain a foothold with emerging market consumers who are looking for weight loss options, but may be hesitant to trust a new-to-them brand. Weight Watchers has already had success with this method, licensing their brand to companies such as Heinz, General Mills, and Kraft in order to expand into new markets. Online weight management solutions, such as the ability to track eating habits, count calories, and even attend virtual meetings, may also appeal to those looking for a “hands-on” diet, but who do not have the time or inclination to meet in person.

Introduction to Analyst Pulse survey

In 2011, Euromonitor International began designing, executing and analysing its own surveys in order to expand its trusted global research. This is part of a series of articles presenting the results of its Analyst Pulse surveys. In Analyst Pulse surveys, Passport Survey reaches out to Euromonitor’s network of in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world in order to find out more about current consumer attitudes and habits on a wide variety of topics, from economic outlook to daily activities. The Survey team collaborates with Euromonitor industry managers to identify topics and design questions. In June 2013, 250 researchers answered questions about diet trends; these questions were created in partnership with the Health and Wellness team.

More on the sample: our global analyst network

Analyst Pulse survey results differ from other survey data cited on Passport Survey (eg, findings from the Annual Study or Global Youth) and should be interpreted with some caution. Analyst Pulse responses reflect the opinions and habits of several hundred of Euromonitor International’s in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world. As such, results reflect a great degree of geographic, economic, and cultural diversity among educated consumers.

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