Health trend continues as obesity rates rise

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

The number of Americans who are obese has increased by nearly two percent in two years and people need to cut down on high calorie foods and sugary drinks, according to a new report.

More Americans now believe they are overweight as an estimated 25.6 percent of US adults reported being obese in 2007, compared to 23.9 percent in 2005 which is an increase of 1.7 percent, according to study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Experts say that efforts need to be made to reduce these figure and this provides opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers to position consumer products that address the obesity phenomenon.

Jonathan Thomas, principal market analyst for Leatherhead Food International, told that food manufacturers are capitalizing on the continued growth in demand for healthier products.

He said: “Many have launched product ranges specifically targeted at particular dietary concerns, such as Kraft’s range of products influenced by the South Beach Diet.

“Others are reformulating their products to give them added health appeal – for example, trans fatty acids are increasingly being removed, whilst many savory snacks are now being baked or cooked in healthier oils.

“Early indications suggest that many of these innovations are proving popular with consumers.

“Products that are marketed as healthy or better-for-you are still growing quite strongly in places like the US and the UK.

“There is also more product development and product activity going on by extending the range of products with things like portion control, which is quite big in the US for instance.”

He added that even with products which are typically seen as less healthy, such as crisps, “manufacturers are still investing the time and the money to reduce the saturated fat content and make their products seem a bit healthier”.

Leatherhead said that last year American consumers spent $125 on "low and light" foods per capita.

Obesity rate

The obesity data were derived from a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of more than 350,000 adults. BMI was calculated based on this self-reported information.

The report found that none of the 50 states or the District of Columbia has achieved the Healthy People 2010 goal which was designed to reduce obesity prevalence to 15 percent or less.

The prevalence of obesity, ranged from 19.1 percent for men and women aged 19-29 years to 31.7 and 30.2 percent, respectively, for men and women aged 50-59 years.

Obesity is a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Dr William Dietz, director of CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, said: “The epidemic of adult obesity continues to rise in the United States indicating that we need to step up our efforts at the national, state and local levels.

“We need to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and reduce the consumption of high calorie foods and sugar sweetened beverages in order to maintain a healthy weight.”

Meeting health demands

A recent Credit Suisse report called “Obesity and Investment Implications”​ said that revenue related to obesity products in the consumer staples sector, which includes food and beverage companies, is set to reach $1.4 trillion globally in expected revenues by 2012, with average annual growth of 9.3 percent from 2008.

The report states: "In the packaged foods space, the drive against obesity is a further acceleration of already existing trends toward health and nutrition, convenience and trading up to more premium items."

According to Credit Suisse "portfolios have been reformulated, repackaged, and repositioned to provide healthier options, be it low fat, low sodium, low carb, trans fat free, sugar free, reduced calorie, portion control, or whole grains”.

It describes these trends as part of a “natural evolution of the food industry to shifts in consumer demand or requirements.

In rated how well companies are positioned to capitalise on health and wellness trends, Credit Suisse said that Danone, Kellogg, and Nestlé “have the best-positioned portfolios".

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