Special edition: Weight managment

Asia proving growing market in weight control sector

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

As levels of obesity continue to rise on a global scale, Nutraingredients looks at the market for weight management dietary supplements, food and beverage products.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, by 2015, there will be more than 1.5 billion overweight consumers, incurring health costs beyond $117 billion per year in the US alone. Moreover, a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine​ reported 90 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women will eventually become overweight.

This factor is impacting the weight loss food, drinks and supplement category with the analysts at​market research firm Business Insights, in a recent report, arguing that the ingredients market within the category has changed significantly over the past 10 years due to companies expanding from a niche environment to the main market.

"The desire to expand into mainstream categories has enabled ingredients to shift from the highly regulated dietary supplements industry to the food and beverage categories,”​ state the authors in their overview of the sector.

Emerging markets

Meanwhile, in terms of the retail market for weight management products, the US is estimated to be at near saturation point by market analysts Euromonitor International with a decrease in sales noted there, and they predict that Asia, with rising obesity levels, will count more in terms of the take up of new product launches in the coming years.

Supporting this view, Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) statistics shows new product launches in India came in at 51 last year, compared to 22 in 2008 and 5 in 2005.

Indonesia saw 19 new introductions of products making weight control claims in 2009 compared to 8 in 2005, while the Philippines had only 2 product launches in this sector in 2005 but 26 in 2009.

China is also proving to be a growing market, with one weight control product introduction in 2005 versus 21 last year, according to the GNPD. 2008 only showed 10 new launches in the sector but industry insiders affirm that this knockback can be attributed to a general lack of innovation in a food and beverage market rocked by the melamine scandal that year.

Global picture

On a global scale, the Mintel database identifies 1,528 new global launches in 2009 of food and beverage products on a weight management positioning. This compares to 375 new launches in 2005, 291 in 2006, 1,197 in 2007 and 1,317 in 2008.

Taking a closer look at the North American market, new introductions came in at 462 last year, compared with 125 in 2005, 58 in 2006, 298 in 2007 and 381 in 2008. Europe saw 168 launches in 2005, 161 in 2006, a dramatic jump in 2007 with 577, 595 in 2008 and 604 last year.

And the Euromonitor researchers value the US retail market for food, beverage and supplement weight management products at $3.64bn in 2009, compared to $3.7bn in 2008 and $3.93bn in 2005. Meanwhile, in western Europe, the market was worth $1.3bn in 2009, while the eastern European market was valued at $407m in the same period.

Future candidates

The slimming ingredients market can be divided into five groups based on the mechanisms of action: increasing energy expenditure; modulating carbohydrate metabolism; increasing satiety or suppressing appetite; increasing fat oxidation or reducing fat synthesis; and blocking dietary fat absorption.

So, which ingredients are candidates for the future in weight management? The best options, claim Euromonitor researchers, are still whey, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) soy and dietary fiber.

Satiety success

Speaking to Nutraingredients.com, Euromonitor market analyst Ewa Hudson stresses that there has been a definite switch to satiety products over the last few years, driven by consumer demand for weight loss products with instant results.

She said while the bulk of new product launches in the weight management category are still those that remove certain ingredients to avoid weight gain, satiety is garnering more attention and that there will be a shift from food minus to food plus in the market for weight management in food and beverages.

“Before, we had the idea of removing food or components from our diets. But now the concept of food plus – which is centred around satiety – will become a key focus,”​ she continued.

Mintel’s GNPD reveals show global launches for products with a satiety positioning increased from one in the first quarter of 2005 to 42 in the first quarter of 2008.

And nutrition researcher at Leatherhead International, Roberta Re, told this publication that in terms of satiety ingredients, protein and fibre are still top of the list: “Protein is the most satiating of macronutrients and probably has the most evidence, with soy protein and mycoprotein two of the most recently investigated.”

Indeed, the Mintel database shows one third of the products launched on a satiety platform since 2005 were based on a combination of fibres and proteins, while another 20 per cent claiming a high protein or a high fibre content.

Foods marketed for satiety enhance feelings of fullness after eating, acting as a boost to a person's will-power and helping them avoid a reversion to old habits in a bid to stave off hunger pangs, or 'grazing' in between meals.

Simple sells

Hudson maintains, though, that how companies communicate the satiety message has a direct impact on the success or failure of products in the marketplace, and she cites the case of the failure of Dannon’s Light and Fit Crave Control yoghurt in the North American market due to the fact that the message explaining satiety, she argues, was longwinded and turned off consumers in that geography.

The marketing of the same yoghurt with a different name, Shape, has excelled in the UK market, claims Hudson, on the basis that the satiety message ‘Feel fuller for longer’ was easily understood by mass market consumers.

Metabolism and weight

In terms of innovation, the Euromonitor’s Hudson notes that while there is a new focus in terms of research on the ability of gut microflora to affect metabolism and control weight, it remains a niche area and has not yet translated into pre/probiotic product launches on a weight management platform.

Functional drinks

Beverages will be a key area of product innovation for weight management ingredients, claim the market researchers at Business Insights,​ and they point to the increase in product launches of 10 per cent between 2007 and 2008 as an indicator of the growth opportunities in this category.

And the researchers there caution that due to the investment required to gain an approved health claim within the EU, branded ingredient suppliers might look to other regions in the future.

To read Part 2, Science: Backing up the satiety and metabolic claims​, please click here​.

To read Part 3, Science: Slimming ingredients beyond satiety​, please click here​.

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