Low-carbohydrate bakery products have taken the US market by storm and are set to stay, according to a new report.

Euromonitor International's latest research shows that growth in reduced carbohydrate or "low-carb" bakery products surged between 2003 and 2004, with a growth rate of nearly 84%. During this period, low carb biscuits and cereals were the key market drivers, with impressive growth rates of 310% and 110%, respectively.

Product innovation drives growth

The report suggests that the explosion of "carb-conscious" brand extensions from late 2003 onwards has been instrumental in the rapid growth of the low-carb bakery sector in the US. Instead of creating new brands, US manufacturers have leveraged popular existing brands to create new reduced-carb versions. For example, in July 2004, Kellogg Co launched Kellogg Special K for a Low Carb Lifestyle, while its subsidiary Keebler introduced Keebler Chips Deluxe Carb Sensible Cookies. The summer of 2004 also saw Kraft Foods launch the CarbWell range, which offers low carb versions of popular brands like Post breakfast cereal and Snack Wells biscuits. 

In addition to the entry of large manufacturers into reduced carb products, a number of speciality brands have emerged. Atkins Nutritionals, for example, now manufactures bakery products including breakfast cereals, wraps and bagels.

Low-carb diet trend prevails

Traditionally, foods that are rich in carbohydrates have been a staple in North American diets. Until very recently foods such as cereals and breads were typically viewed by many US consumers as a necessary part of a balanced diet. However, the introduction of low-carb diets such as Atkins and South Beach have radically changed Americans' attitudes towards healthy eating.

Although some low-carb diets have now fallen out of favour, they have made many Americans think twice about eating carbohydrates. The result is that even US consumers who do not follow low-carb diets still try to limit their consumption of carbohydrates. Euromonitor International's research illustrates this trend, as volume sales of traditional bakery products have remained stagnant since 2001, with a yearly growth of 0.3%.

Despite this shift in attitudes towards carbohydrates, US consumers still find it difficult to create meal options which don't involve this food type, especially bread. Manufacturers have seized this opportunity by introducing low-carb varieties of popular bakery brands to the US market. Now, carb-conscious Americans are able to eat the foods they love without compromising their diets.

But will low-carb bakery stick?

Euromonitor International expects that low-carb bakery products will remain a fixture in the US market in the future. However, growth is likely to decelerate in the coming years as diet trends change. Euromonitor forecasts growth in low-carb bakery to fall to a yearly average of 4.6% between 2004-2009, a significant decline from its recent boom.

To find out more, or to purchase Euromonitor's report, Health and Wellness Foods in the USA, click here.