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February 16, 2004

USA: High-carb foods: fighting the low-carb craze (COMMENT)

The food industry is getting ready to fight the surging popularity of low-carb diets with multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that tout the nutritional benefits of various high-carb foods. While such campaigns might help lift depressed sales they are unlikely to stop the low-carb craze.

The food industry is getting ready to fight the surging popularity of low-carb diets with multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that tout the nutritional benefits of various high-carb foods. While such campaigns might help lift depressed sales they are unlikely to stop the low-carb craze.

It is believed that an estimated ten million Americans are currently practising low-carb diets such as Atkins. The rising popularity of such diets has prompted many food and drink manufacturers to respond with low-carb alternatives. Recent entrants into the surging low-carb market include Latrobe’s Rock Green Light and Heinz’s low-carb ketchup. Restaurants have also been cowering to the demands of low-carb dieters. TGI Fridays and Subway both advertise an Atkins menu.

Marketers of products such as potatoes, however, do not have the luxury of providing a low-carb alternative for their products and have paid for it with diminishing demand and profits. The United States Potato Board last year found that potato consumption fell 4.7% from the prior year.

Determined not to let the Atkins wave ride them out of business, many food and drink manufacturers have launched multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. The potato industry has responded with a US$4m advertising campaign. The Idaho Potato Commission also launched a $2m campaign. The campaign, which asks “Is there too much fad in your diet?”, highlights the health benefits of potatoes, such as no-fat and high vitamins.

The discovery that orange juice consumption fell by 5% last year has prompted citrus growers to launch a $1.8m advertising campaign touting oranges as ‘smart carbohydrates’. The pasta industry has also felt the heat. Barilla is currently collaborating with other pasta makers to raise money for a campaign to promote the nutritional benefits of pasta. The National Pasta Association in the US is also sponsoring a conference to discuss strategies to compete with the low-carb movement.

The health focus of these campaigns is bound to resonate with consumers increasingly concerned with total well-being. However, their impact is likely to be limited by the growing focus of Americans on losing weight as opposed to getting fit and healthy.

(c) 2004 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.

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