Changing Times in Weight Management

Dieting is on the wane, obsession with weight loss could be over. Weight management is linked to healthy eating.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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Eating healthy is hot; dieting is not. People are increasingly turning away from obsessive diets and official plans, no longer avoiding fat, sodium and high carbs in favor of "healthy," wholesome foods.

U.S. consumers prefer living healthier lifestyles to dealing with the restrictive dieting habits of the past. They don't want to hear about counting calories and don't want food made with artificial ingredients, finds market research firm NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.

Dieting has declined in the last 10 years, NPD’s research finds. Managing weight today means achieving a healthy lifestyle, and consumers are using different tactics depending on their motivation. Healthy living also involves improving sleep, drinking plenty of water, taking vitamins and relieving stress, say findings provided by The Hartman Group.

Low-calorie, fat-free and sugar-free foods don’t seem to be changing the obesity statistics. Some 63 percent of American adults are overweight, which studies reveal is now a social norm, more accepted and less stigmatized than in years past. According to the Weight Management and Healthy Living 2015 report from The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., the new enemy isn't simply being overweight − it's being obese. The Centers for Disease Control says 34.9 percent one of Americans are obese. Simultaneously, "diet" food product sales have dropped, the report points out.

In this new era of weight management, obese and overweight folks have different approaches to weight management, which could give food and beverage companies new insight into how best to focus their marketing efforts with relevant products and messaging. "The era of blanket weight-loss marketing is over," the Hartman Group report states. "Selling food and beverages to aid weight-management efforts now means focusing on different kinds of consumers." The good news for product developers is there are plenty of people for whom to develop weight management products. Preliminary sales data from Euromonitor International, London, shows the global weight management market posting strong year-over-year gains, reaching value sales of $14 billion in 2013. More recent figures from Allied Market Research expect the market to reach a hefty $422.8 billion worldwide by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 percent during the period from 2015 to 2020.

Corporate, brand threat

A stable weight depends on a balance between the energy we get from the food we eat and the energy we use throughout the day. Still, "eating behaviors remain the focus of the problem — and the solution," Hartman Group's findings reveal. What's really alarming is that although consumers view themselves as primarily responsible for their weight, they increasingly see processed foods and food manufacturers as contributing to the obesity problem -- what the report admits is "a growing threat to corporate and brand reputations that should be watched."

NPD’s recent "Eating Patterns in America" report, an annual compilation of ongoing food and beverage consumption research, indicates that consumers want to lose weight using their own methods, defining aspects that work for them and their schedules.

They're also more interested in lifestyles and the authenticity and purity of the foods they eat, says NPD, favoring more minimally processed foods, fewer artificial sweeteners, preservatives and additives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They are eating more fresh foods, a move NPD forecasts will only continue over the next several years. "To ensure future growth, food marketers will need to make sure to promote the fresh or natural elements of products to reflect the consumer need for authenticity," suggests NPD's food and beverage industry analyst Darren Seifer.

But maintaining an even keel is tricky. Many people drop weight only to gain it back again, and then some, no matter what program they follow. This can happen because we haven't learned how to change unhealthy behaviors that led to the weight gain to begin with, such as overeating and lack of exercise.

Maintaining weight loss and preventing a constant cycle of yo-yo dieting is difficult, agrees Lana Woshnak, director of technical services North America at DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, N.Y., maker of Fortitech premixes. Woshnak's white paper, discussing nutrients targeting weight management, notes that after weight loss there's a natural drop in basal energy expenditure, because the body now does less metabolic work to maintain its new, sleeker self. This phenomenon, at the previous level of normal daily activity, often slows further weight loss, he says, and promotes weight regain when dietary energy limits or the exercise levels loosen following the active weight loss.

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