It’s no surprise that the weight control market is big business at the moment considering global concerns about obesity and heart disease. Atkins’ heyday has passed, but more balanced diet and weight control regimes are increasing in popularity, and new product introductions reflect that. Mintel reports.

This month Mintel’s GNPD (Global New Products Database) focuses on weight control, a market being driven by the growing incidents of heart disease and obesity around the world. Governments worldwide are taking active steps to educate the public on the dangers of high fat, high cholesterol diets. In response, consumers are switching to smaller, lighter meals or substituting meals with shakes, bars, drinks and other forms of meal replacement. In the US, the rise in popularity of low-carb diet plans such as Atkins and South Beach, have had a negative impact on some segments of the weight control market (e.g high carb replacements and shakes) in the last year. However, on the plus side, Mintel has seen the introduction of low-carb shakes, bars and supplements (particularly during 2004). Following the recent bankruptcy of Atkins Nutritionals and the negative press surrounding low-carb diets, Mintel expects to see a shift away from these products towards more balanced diet/weight control regimes in the near future.

In terms of launch activity, despite being a small category, according to GNPD the number of new products involved in the sector increased by 52% in 2004, with launches exceeding 550 products compared to 388 in 2003. This rise, however, looks likely to fall in 2005, where in the first half of the year, the sub-category registered a decline of 55%.  Public concerns over product safety (e.g. Ephedra) of weight control items are thought to have contributed to the decline.

Europe and North America rule the weight control market

With 45% and 33% of all new introductions respectively, Europe and North America continue to be the biggest regions in the weight control market. Growing concerns over obesity have continued to drive the market in Europe which registered a 100% increase in the number of product launches in 2004 (compared to a 12% increase in 2003). However, the biggest gains in 2004 were in the Asia Pacific region, which registered an increase of over 200% (compared to a 23% decrease in 2003). Whilst an increase in GNPD coverage throughout the region could account for some of this growth, market developments in both Australia and Japan have had a significant impact. Further to an unprecedented growth in 2004, however, a decline in the level of activity of over 50% is expected in 2005 for all regions with significant decreases in Asia, North America and Europe.

Within the category, shakes and bars are particularly active segments; these products continue to have impact on the US market, where consumers are turning to them not only for weight loss, but also for nutritional supplementation. This is in stark contrast to the Asian market, which has seen very little activity in this segment over the last year. Asian consumers have yet to embrace the concept of on-the-go dining, preferring instead to sit down and take their time. Unless these habits are altered, the trend looks set to continue. Instead, in Asia, it seems, supplements and weight loss drink fare better.

Following global movement towards healthier living, the popularity of shakes remains strong. The main focus this year has been on marketing shakes as a meal replacement product not just a snack. Towards this aim several products now claim to contain weight loss formulas that help to burn fat and control the appetite. High protein and vitamin enriched shakes remain popular and are now moving mainstream. No longer the mainstay of athletes, these shakes are being positioned as an integral part of a high protein diet (as part of this drive many soya based shakes were introduced). Despite all of the activity in this sub-category very little has changed in terms of variety.

Everyday weight loss

Another key trend to have emerged this year is the growing popularity of less scientific more everyday weight loss drinks, specifically in the Asian market. Drinks that claim to promote weight loss by increasing metabolism have proved popular this year. Recent introductions are being marketed as a lighter, casual and everyday alternative to traditional soft drinks and juices, rather than as specific dietary supplement. Often low in sugar, these drinks have a reduced calorie count that appeals to consumers. Many also contain herbs that aid digestion.

In Taiwan, Vitalon Foods Company introduced Instantly Slim Green Tea, a green tea drink that contains catechin, amino acids, and inulin. The drink is claimed to make one feel full and decrease daily food intake.

In Japan, Shiseido Beauty Foods launched Celluliter drink, a weight control drink with spicy grapefruit flavour. The low calorie drink contains caffeine, melilot extract, and lactic acid bacteria ferment which together claim to promote weight loss.

In Malaysia, Blöndal introduced a chrysanthemum-flavoured Shape Tea said to have remarkable weight loss inducing properties. It contains Garcinia Cambogia, an active ingredient used to metabolise fat efficiently, thereby inhibiting the body’s ability to make and store fat. Coupled with the other ingredients, it is claimed that this tea also detoxifies and cleanses the body by acting as a mild lubricant that gently encourages the digestive function to perform at its optimum.

In Malaysia, Zuellig Pharma launched Diet Herbal-Tea, a 100% natural blended herbal tea specially formulated for dieters. It is said to have a gentle stimulating effect on the digestive system and regulates bowel movement, promoting weight loss with little discomfort or diarrhoea.

Body definition

In France, Microfluid Biotechnology introduced Lipofluid Boisson Minceur sans Sucre Bloqueur de Grasean, an orange and grapefruit flavoured weight control drink that is claimed to block fat from entering the body.

Another interesting trend to have emerged is the introduction of products which focus on body definition such as flat tummy rather than weight loss. Within the supplements sector there has been an increase in the number of fat burners being introduced, many of which claim to offer additional benefits such as appetite suppression, increased metabolism and targeted weight loss (such as flatter tummy rather than general weight loss).

In Mexico, OLA International introduced Energybolizer, a 100% natural weight loss supplement that is claimed to make the consumer feel better and look better (through the loss of fat) and increase their energy level. The supplements are reported to contain ginkgo biloba and chromium picolinate to this effect.

In Germany, Almased-Wellness launched a pack of powder supplement containing soya protein, honey, yoghurt powder, vitamins and minerals suitable for people on weight loss programmes, especially those on low protein diets. The product is claimed to deliver energy during times of heightened physical or mental demands, and contains all necessary essential amino acids to this effect.
In Japan, Shiseido Beauty Foods introduced a pack of diet supplements formulated with next-generation amino acid L-ornithine, L-carnitine, soy peptide, alpha-lipoic acid, inositol, caffeine, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and aloe extract, to support and sustain the body’s energy level during weight loss.