Although the Atkins diet has won great popularity among consumers, few moves have been made by the food industry to cash in on this. Now UK supermarket Safeway is to produce more emphatic in-store labelling for its low-carbohydrate products, potentially sparking a wave of diet-related marketing.

Safeway, in an attempt to benefit from the growing popularity of the Atkins diet, is considering taking the innovative step of prominently labelling all low carb products, with 'low carb' meaning less than 10% carbohydrate. On-shelf labelling will mark out low-carb products, such as Michelob Ultra or Safeway's own Eat Smart products.

This initiative is timed to coincide with consumers' post-Christmas desire to diet and lose weight, as they balance out their excessive festive consumption with bouts of diet improvement. This trend is becoming more prominent with the growth of highly popular diets such as the Atkins and South Beach diets, which offer far more specific routes to a slimmer waistline.

This specificity demands a lot from consumers by limiting the range of foods they can eat and by forcing them to plan every meal in advance. Supermarkets in the UK have been slow to realise the added value they can offer to consumers by highlighting which products are suitable. Safeway's proposed in-store labelling is the first major initiative of this kind.

In many ways, the food industry as a whole has been slow to develop the opportunities attached to this new wave of diets. Consumers - especially consumers trying to eat at work, or in other away-from-home venues - need easy, convenient solutions to the problem of sticking to their diet. But branded, clearly labelled product lines matched to the exacting requirements of these highly popular diets do not yet exist - except when produced by the inventors of the diets themselves.

Safeway's new strategy will probably be successful, and as such should spark a host of similar initiatives among its competitors. Given the pressure from the government to crack down on obesity, supermarkets should be glad of the opportunity to prove that they care about their customers' health. 

(c) 2003 Datamonitor. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent. Datamonitor shall not be liable for errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.