The UK’s growing obesity problem is having a dramatic impact on the health of the nation, translating into a weighty financial burden for the NHS. This has made the issue a key focus within both political and media spheres, and dieting has become ingrained into many Briton’s lifestyles. The majority of adults (65% of women and 44% of men) have tried to lose weight in the 12 months to September 2013.
While the diet food market should be reaping the rewards from Britons’ desire to slim down, sales have only increased by a marginal 7% between 2008 and 2013 to £1.8 billion, which corresponds to a decline of 14% at constant 2013 prices.
Consumers have many weapons in their armoury when it comes to managing their weight, and they prefer to exercise more, reduce portion sizes and cut back on certain types of food (eg those with a high content of fat/sugar/carbs) than to eat more diet products. This owes to a number of negative perceptions which plague the market. These include concerns over the ingredients/sweeteners that go into diet products, distrust that diet brands provide nutritious food, doubts over significant differences in calories between these and the standard alternatives and the perception of small serving sizes.
As such there is a strong demand for greater transparency, and six in 10 adults would like to see clearer nutritional information that shows the differences between diet foods and their non-diet equivalents. This is something the government’s uniform front-of-pack labelling system could help to address.
Seven in 10 (71%) of those who have tried to lose weight in the last year would like to see clearer information showing the nutritional differences between diet foods and their ‘non-diet’ equivalents. This should help to alleviate the widespread concerns about the calorie content of diet foods being based on small portion sizes.
There are also widespread concerns about the ingredients/sweeteners that go into diet food. However, there is a strong demand for more products using natural sweeteners to replace sugar, particularly among dieters (58%).