European and U.S consumer spend on diet-related food and drink combined will grow from US$86.8bn 2003 to over $100bn in 2008 – an increase of $16bn over the period, according to a new report from market analysts Datamonitor called Dieting Trends.

“The slim, lean ideal of beauty could soon become a thing of the past,” Datamonitor said. “Exercise in combination with easy-to-follow diet regimes, are fast becoming en vogue. Low-carb diets such as Atkins and the South Beach diet which have taken the dieting industry by storm may now have to take a back seat.”

“Many consumers are relying less on the media when seeking dieting advice and instead turning to social networks and personal relationships, said Lawrence Gould, consumer analyst at Datamonitor. “This shift in perspective provides new opportunities for the food and beverage industry to provide consumers with more than simply meals – but with a lifestyle that they can buy into for years to come.”

By 2008, rates of overweight and obesity in Europe are set to reach 53%. In the UK, Germany and Spain they are already almost equal to those in the US. Larger sized food portions and more inactive lifestyles have been blamed for these growing waistlines.

However, in Datamonitor’s view there has been a marked shift in consumer thinking with regards to dieting regimes.  Not only does it appear that consumers want to tackle their weight for aesthetic reasons, they also want to fight flab and keep fit.

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“In their quest to fight the flab, following a more moderate and easy-to-follow regime is fast becoming the latest dieting trend with focus on foods that can be digested more slowly, reducing hunger pangs between meals,” says Gould. “Consumers are increasingly looking to make little lifestyle changes to control their weight. By incorporating smaller, manageable chunks of activity into their routine, they are more likely to follow these changes for longer than if they were to make more drastic ones and avoid going back to their old ways.”

“Manufacturers need to show consumers they are on their side through products which will allow the consumer to take steps that can be implemented immediately without disruption to their daily life,” Gould said. “They will need to do more to meet the needs of these consumers by making their products more appealing to this ‘moderate’ outlook.”