Diet products have little impact on waistlines

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Europe

Consumers may be spending more on diet products, but it seems they
are having little effect on overall obesity rates since they are
not being used as part of an overall healthy diet, according to a
new report from Datamonitor.

The market in diet products is booming in Europe. In 2004 it was worth US$49.2 billion (€40.7 billion) and is expected to increase to $58.2 (€48.2 billion) by 2009, predicts the report Overweight consumers and the future of food and drinks.

But obesity rates are also on the up. Forty eight per cent of Europeans are currently classified as overweight or severely overweight, but this is expected to creep to 50 per cent by 2009.

In the US, 65 per cent of the population is overweight or seriously overweight.

John Band, the study's author and consumer market analyst at Datamonitor, told that it is not that these diet products are not effective, but that they are ineffective as they are not being used as part of an overall healthy diet.

At the moment, there exists a "credit and debit"​ attitude to consumption, he explained. "Because they have done something good like go to the gym or eat a diet product, people think they have earned being able to eat something like a pie or a cake.

"As long as that mentality exists it is not going to affect waistlines."

To combat this, Band suggests that food manufacturers could consider developing products that are both diet options and indulgent at the same time.

They could also consider working with health authorities to promote their products as part of a healthy diet for weight loss.

At present, products making low- or no-fat claims account for more new product launches than those making any other 'lesser evil' claims - 10.4 per cent in 2005. Low carb products accounted for only 5.1 per cent, a significant drop off from a height of 14.1 per cent in 2004.

In the UK, the European country where overweight levels are closest to US levels (40 per cent overweight in the UK and 21 per cent severely, compared to 41 and 24 per cent respectively in the US), the overall diet food and drink market was valued at £4.6 billion (€6.8 billion) in 2004 and is predicted to rise to £5.3 (€7.8) billion by 2009.

The average spend on diet products per person per year in the UK is set to increase from £77 (€113) in 2004 to £86 (€126) in 2009. At present, the Swedes and the Dutch have the highest average per person expenditure, of £110 (€162) and £99 (€146).

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