Recession-induced comfort eating produces weight loss market boom

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Weight loss, Obesity

Recession-induced comfort eating produces weight loss market boom
The US weight loss products industry is expected to grow 4.5% in 2012 to $65bn, as an increasingly overweight population looks to shift some of the extra pounds gained through recession comfort eating, according to market research organization Marketdata Enterprises.

The number of Americans dieting in any given year has been increasing, from a third (33%) of adults in 2004, to a record high of 54% in 2010, according to the Calorie Control Council. Marketdata Enterprises estimates that about 108m American adults, or 48%, will go on a diet this year.

Marketdata Enterprises research director John LaRosa said: “2012 promises to be another active year for weight loss programs of all kinds, as pent-up demand unfolds. However, the greater number of dieters will still be value-conscious, patronizing diet companies that offer flexible, convenient, and reasonably priced services.”

The organization’s 4.5% growth estimate for the industry is up from 2% last year, it said.

About 90% of dieters are female, and their average starting weight has increased to 175-199lbs, up from 155-174lbs for the first time since 2005 – an increase the market researcher attributes to comfort eating and turning to lower-priced fast food during the prolonged recessionary period. Because of this higher starting weight, it predicts dieters will spend longer on diet programs this year.

Meanwhile, the men’s diet products market is predicted to grow to 16% of market share, to $10.4bn, as diet companies place more emphasis on male dieters.

Among other insights, the researcher said 61% of dieters prefer to use regular grocery store food; about 5% look for meal replacements such as shakes and bars; and 6% prefer to use diet company food or frozen food. About 80% of dieters aim to lose weight on their own, without the help of any particular diet program or company.

Its prediction that the weight loss products industry will continue to thrive in response to increasing obesity rates is in line with other trend predictions, as an estimated two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, according to government figures. IBISWorld, for example, said in October that the meal replacement market had experienced strong growth throughout the recession, and was on course for 9.3% growth in 2011, to hit $2.2bn.

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