US baby boomers are now a significant proportion of the dieting population. Diet service companies are responding by increasingly trying to attract this lucrative consumer segment. The development of new products directly marketed to these boomers - from these companies and traditional CPG manufacturers - will significantly drive the health category product and service industries.

Weight Watchers International has posted full-year revenues of US$809.6m for 2002, up from $623.9m in 2001, a rise of 30%. Fourth quarter revenues came in at $190.1m, compared to $145.5m in the same period a year earlier, with net income in Q4 rising to $28.4m from $19.2m, excluding unusual items.
 
Weight Watchers is one among a number of major diet industry players that have announced strong revenue and income growth for 2002. Behind the numbers, the growth in revenues is being driven by a growth in membership - between 1997 and 2002, attendance at Weight Watcher meetings more than doubled, surging from 23 million to 55 million.

A sizable proportion of the attendees are baby boomers confronting a battle of the bulge. As they move into their forties and fifties, metabolisms are slowing down, lifestyles becoming more sedentary and waistlines spreading. And as their weight rises, so does the associated risk of health problems.

More health conscious and more proactive in managing their weight than previous generations, the boomers are increasingly searching for new ways to regain control of their weight.

Slim-Fast Foods, which reports that 40% of its customers are baby boomers, is meeting this desire by utilising consumer education about obesity's health risks - a strategy designed to cater to the health conscious generation's zeal for information.

Keeping marketing messages clear and informative will remain key to attracting the baby boomers. While they do not like being reminded of their age, they are nevertheless experiencing real physical changes that directly affect their food and drink consumption. Consumer packaged goods manufacturers that show understanding, concern and a solution will receive tangible rewards and growth of their own, via new product sales and deepened brand loyalty.

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