Sales of diet foods are down in real terms in the UK - Mintel

Sales of diet foods are down in real terms in the UK - Mintel

The UK's diet food industry has lost more than a tenth of its value in real terms over the past five years, a new report from Mintel shows.

Consumer scepticism and economic recession are putting the diet foods sector under pressure, according to Mintel analysts.

Headline figures show that sales of diet foods in the UK rose by 10% in the five years to the end of 2012, according to the research group's Dieting Trends report. Yet, the underlying health of the market is less rosy.

"When the effects of inflation are stripped away, the value of the market tumbled by 16% between 2007 and 2012," Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel, told just-food. "The outlook looks set to remain a challenging one for the diet and weight control food market over the next few years," she added.

Value sales of diet foods are expected to increase by 16% up to the end of 2017, to an estimated GBP1.9bn (US$3bn). But, Clifford believes this will be driven by ongoing food price inflation, rather than a significant uplift in demand.

There are, however, pockets of opportunity in the market, according to Mintel. Signatories to the Government's Responsibility Deal have pledged to cut a collective 5bn calories from the UK's daily diet by 2020, and this may lead to more low-fat and diet foods.

Alternatively, producers might simply reformulate their standard ranges, placing those foods in competition with the traditional diet sector.

Consumers over 55 and those aged between 25 and 34 are most likely to buy diet foods, Mintel research shows. Biscuits dominate the UK's diet foods category, with a 31% value share, while frozen and chilled ready meals are under the most pressure.