Special Diets: A Spotlight on Low-Carb, Keto and Paleo Diets

October 2022

Special diets remain an important tool for weight management. The majority of followers of keto, low-carb and paleo diets are young, educated consumers without major health issues, which makes special diets a preventative measure and a part of a lifestyle, rather than a remedy. These niche diets are potential growth areas for higher margin products, and are spreading from developed regions to developing ones, where an increasing number of consumers are trying to improve their nutrition.

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Key Findings

Increasing concerns about weight management and healthy eating habits benefit demand for special diets

The health and wellness trend is driving the food industry, contributing to the premiumisation trend and helping manufacturers to increase their margins. Rising awareness of weight management is one of the key factors that is expected to impact the special diets industry positively in the forecast period.

From a diet to a lifestyle

The idea of following special diets (keto, paleo or low-carb) just to fight overweight is increasingly being replaced with the understanding of them as more holistic concepts and part of a healthy lifestyle. Young consumers want to feel healthy and eat healthy products, rather than thinking about health problems, which the word “diet” is more and more associated with, contradicting positive thinking.

Keto, paleo and low-carb claims are spreading from North America to other markets, but high inflation poses challenges

North America is the biggest market for special diets, but they are spreading to other developed markets in Western Europe and Australasia. However, as special diets tend to limit the consumption of cheap staples (eg bread, baked goods and pasta) replacing them with other, more premium products, they are becoming unaffordable to an increasing number of consumers during a period of high inflation and economic recession.

Special diets still lack awareness, but digital channels and social media platforms are spreading the word

The level of awareness of keto, paleo and low-carb products remains low, so it is important to boost awareness to bring these special diets from being a niche to the mass market. Many consumers who try to avoid carbs or processed food may not understand that these are key elements of low-carb and paleo diets, so having claims for products will help consumers identify them more easily. Social media, nutrition and food tracking applications, and influencers are helping form positive perceptions of special diets and spreading awareness.​

Opportunities abound across categories

Low-carb, keto and paleo claims are developing across different categories, with the keto claim being the fastest growing. Low-carb staple foods, keto dairy products and paleo cooking ingredients are major categories within packaged food with special diet claims. Meanwhile, healthy snacks, edible oils, cheese, yoghurt and breakfast cereals look the most promising areas for further development of special diet claims.

Scope
Key findings
Overweight problems are increasing in the Americas and Middle East
Younger consumers are more concerned about their weight
One third of consumers follow special diets as a tool for weight management
Eating less carbs and processed food rank among the most common weight loss habits
High-protein, plant-based and gluten-free diets are driving demand for healthy foods
Diets that restrict carbs while focusing on protein, fats and less processing hold potential
Weight management key reason for low-carb diets, while digestion drives gluten-free diet
Paleo diet claims ancient nutrition will improve the fitness of its followers
Consumer demand for special diets growing strongly in the Middle East and Africa region
Special diets chosen by health-conscious consumers while less processed attracts the masses
Young consumers drive low-carb diet while older ones limit bread and processed food intake
Educated consumers with high incomes are keener on trying special diets
High prices hinder the ability of special diets to reach the masses
Products that are mostly famous as a source of protein rarely have such claims
Medical recommendations remain the top source of diet information but are losing ground
Social media influencers are a driving force for special diets
Nutrition applications are gaining popularity in developing markets
Low-carb claims can bring potential to the staples category
The low-carb claim is gaining market share across the world except for Asia Pacific
Low-carb breakfast cereals and edible oils are the most promising growth areas
Dominated by dairy products, keto foods is expanding rapidly, from a low base
Keto claims remain niche but shows strong growth driven by Australasia and Western Europe
Cheese is the most popular and fastest growing keto category
Keto claims are driving innovation in the snacks category
The paleo claims market is concentrated in oils, fats and savoury snacks
The paleo claim is popular in North America and is growing in the Western Europe market
Edible oils contribute the most to the development of the paleo foods market
Certification schemes for food products to keep up premiumisation
Special diets, especially keto, are transforming into lifestyles
The main challenges for low-carb, keto and paleo claims on the way to the mainstream
Areas of opportunity
Regional expansion and the fast-developing products
Methodology

Health and Wellness

Health and wellness is the aggregation of organic food and beverages, fortified/functional food and beverages, naturally healthy food and beverages, better for you food and beverages and food intolerance products.

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