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UK consumers sceptical of diet foods, says Mintel

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 03-Jan-2013
Last updated on 03-Jan-2013 at 10:10 GMT2013-01-03T10:10:20Z

UK consumers sceptical of diet foods, says Mintel

January is typically seen as a boon time for manufacturers of foods marketed as diet-friendly – but a majority of UK consumers actively distrust foods labelled as diet, low fat or low calorie, according to market research organisation Mintel.

More than half (51%) of consumers distrust such products, while seven in ten (71%) say they don’t know how truthful products’ health claims actually are. Sales of weight control and diet products reflect this scepticism and the market remained flat in 2012, after rising just 10% from 2007 to 2012, to £1.6bn (about €1.96bn).

Emma Clifford, Senior Food Analyst at Mintel said: “The troubles of the diet and weight control market cannot be attributed to consumers lacking interest in losing weight, in fact, quite the contrary. The majority of Britons have tried to lose or manage their weight in the last year, and the number of persistent dieters continues to edge up. The turbulent economic landscape, squeezed disposable incomes and low consumer confidence have stifled growth in the market, as financially straightened Britons turned to cheaper methods of weight management, such as eating smaller portions and cutting back on certain types of food.”

Nearly one in three UK residents (31%) claims to be nearly permanently on a diet but more than three quarters (76%) perceive diet products as overpriced. Nineteen per cent of British consumers use diet or light products, rising to 30% of those who are actively trying to lose weight.

However, there are bright spots in the market for diet products. Biscuits and cereal bars account for the largest portion of the diet and weight control food market at nearly a third (31%), followed by yoghurt (21%), yellow fats (13%), breakfast cereal (7%), salad dressings (6%) bread (6%) chilled ready meals (6%), frozen ready meals (4%) artificial sweeteners (4%) and ice cream (2%). 

Apps are also on the rise in the weight management sector, the market researcher says.

“It is likely that more diet apps will continue to flood onto the market, and the popularity of these will grow,” said Clifford. “Consumers are becoming more data-driven and consumers are increasingly turning to technology to build ‘personal dashboards’.”

Mintel says the top five methods used in the UK in an effort to lose weight are:

1. Exercise more (60%)

2. Eat small portions (55%)

3. Cut back on fatty foods (53%)

4. Cut back on sugary foods and drink (54%)

5. Cut back on desserts (46%)

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