Speaking at the Nutracon conference in Anaheim, California, director of product launch analytics at Datamonitor Tom Vierhile told attendees that many Americans tend to underestimate their weight, with only about 20 percent of obese consumers recognizing that they are obese. Nevertheless, many are still interested in finding ways to manage their weight, even if they are not interested in dieting per se.
“The word ‘diet’ has become a dirty word,” Vierhile said. “It tends to remind consumers that they are deprived of something…The preferred approach for most consumers is to eat smaller portions rather than follow a specific diet plan.”
The food industry is well aware that there are major opportunities in the market for foods and ingredients for weight management, as nearly 70 percent of Americans are obese or overweight. But Vierhile said that some current approaches are not working as well as the industry had hoped.
Satiety – a cautionary tale
The concept of satiety in particular has not translated into strong product sales, even though consumers say they are interested in products that provide satiation. Vierhile cited the rebranding of Danone’s Shape Feel Fuller for Longer yogurt in the UK as ‘a cautionary tale’ in this area.
“Satiety may not be the gold medal winning concept here but hunger control has more potential,” he said. “…There is a significant amount of interest in satiety but people aren’t buying yet.”
What people are doing is focusing on eating less, Vierhile said, with portion controlled packaging spreading to new categories, including marinades, sliders, and cream cheese.
“The number one thing that consumers say they are doing about their weight is consuming smaller quantities...Over 60 percent of consumers want to be told what to eat rather than what to avoid. The traditional focus on cutting out certain foods is giving way to more constructive messages,” he said.
Of the many factors inhibiting consumers’ good intentions for weight management, lack of willpower is number one, with 44 percent of those attempting to manage their weight saying that it is their biggest barrier, according to an IFIC (International Food Information Council) survey conducted last year. Convenience was second, with 40 percent of respondents saying they lacked sufficient time to prepare healthy foods.
“There is a huge opportunity to develop this market,” Vierhile said. “…Manufacturers can play a part here by not portraying weight loss as drudgery and a daunting task. The food industry faces the major dilemma in bridging the gap between health and indulgence.”