Datamonitor’s new report finds that sales of dietary products, comprising dietary supplements and meal replacements for weight loss/weight control, have created a global market worth $6.8 billion, growing from $4.7 billion in 1996. Dietary products are no longer just for the overweight, as manufacturers are increasingly positioning their products for the ‘weight maintenance’ market.

Sales of dietary products are growing as the number of overweight and obese consumers increases. Around 97 million Americans are either overweight or obese, representing around 35% of the total population.  While levels of obesity in Western Europe are generally lower than in the US, it is predicted that the UK and Germany will follow the same trend as the US and reach similar levels in 10 years. Consumer concerns about prescription drug side effects have prompted sales of supplements and replacement meals, with consumers looking for a more ‘natural’ remedy for weight control.

UK OTC Weight Loss and Weight Control Dietary Products Market (£m)
  1997 1999 CAGR 97-99*
Replacement Meals 51.8 40.3 – 12.6%
Dietary Supplements
For weight loss/control
22.0 31.0 18. 7%
Total 73.8 71.3  
Source: Datamonitor (*CAGR= Compound Annual Growth Rate)


UK Percentage of adult population classed as obese/overweight
1997 19%
1999 23%

The majority of sales are taken from replacement meals. Replacement meals (e.g. Slim Fast) are liquid or powder supplements that provide nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals and protein in place of a standard meal.

While replacement meals provide the majority of sales in the market, they are losing share to dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products for weight loss or control and are produced in the form of tablets, tinctures, herbal teas and powders. Examples include ‘fat magnet’ products, which claim to work by attracting a percentage of the fat intake and preventing the body from absorbing it. Sales of supplements are growing at a faster rate than sales of replacement meals as consumer perceive supplements as a more natural solution than meal replacements.  Supplements are also viewed as more innovative than traditional meal replacements. Evidence of the success of supplements is the £11.5 million decrease in sales of meal replacements between 1997 and 1999 in the UK.

Over The Counter Weight Loss Proving Popular

The investment involved in developing prescription drugs for weight loss and weight control is regarded as too expensive and timely by manufacturers. Manufacturers are wary, as historically prescription drugs have been withdrawn due to serious side effects.  Over the counter (OTC) solutions are regarded as having more potential due to increasing consumer acceptance. Products that are based on natural ingredients are performing well due to general consumer distrust of diet drugs. Consumers in the UK have high consumption of herbal remedies, functional foods and organic food and as a result, they are more open to using natural remedies such as herbal teas and tinctures for weight loss and control. The attention given to other natural OTC solutions such as Kava Kava is also helping to draw consumer attention to natural dietary products. In addition, rising prescription charges together with increasing self-medication among consumers is benefiting the dietary supplements market.

Dietary Products: Not just for the Overweight

Manufacturers have created a new weight maintenance market by reorganising and repositioning their product as nutritional supplements, profiting from growing consumer health awareness. This means that products traditionally targeted at the overweight are now also targeted at the non-dieting consumer. Meal replacements such as Slim Fast, for example, are increasingly being positioned as an aid for weight control and healthy living, targeting those consumers looking for an extra nutritional intake in addition to their regular diet.

Not Just a Diet, But a Lifestyle

Increasing numbers of weight loss and weight control products can be classified as lifestyle products. Manufacturers achieve this by supplementing their product portfolio with ‘wellness advice’, and reaching consumers through distribution channels such as gyms and health-stores. These channels enable manufacturers to link nutrition, well being and exercise. Some companies offer individual nutrition analysis and subsequently suggest steps to improve nutritional intake. Non-product related information is also offered, such as information on clothing, low fat recipes and make-up suggestions. Internet based companies feature everything from body mass index calculations and nutritional advice to personal weight management and fat-free recipes. This entices Internet purchases but also acts as lifestyle support and guidance.

“The diet products market has changed; it is no longer just about losing weight. Manufacturers are targeting the health conscious consumer by selling their products through outlets such as gyms, whereby consumers can have a workout and buy their dietary supplements at the same time. This type of distribution, together with positioning products under the ‘weight-maintenance’ banner means that manufacturers are able to reach a new consumer base, i.e. those that are not necessarily dieting. The link between nutrition, exercise and well being creates a broad appeal with British consumers, who increasingly view nutrition as an integral part of their part of their lifestyle,” comments Barbara Bigos, Datamonitor Consultant.

*’Global Dietary Products’, Datamonitor ( +44 171 675 7261