The dieting trend in the US has already taken numerous casualties, with huge swathes of products being deemed inappropriate for consumers seeking to lose weight. But one product, processed cheese brand The Laughing Cow, has benefited from the fad, with US sales rising by more than 250 per cent after its nutritional content was extolled by the South Beach diet program, reports Tom Armitage.
The South Beach diet is one of several diet regimes currently doing the rounds in the US (with the low-carb Atkins diet being perhaps the best known), many of which have led to seismic shifts in food consumption and new product development.
But many programs advise consumers what to cut out of their diets, the South Beach regime has recommended increased consumption of Laughing Cow cheese, whose low-fat, low-carb combination best fits the healthy balance approach to weight loss adopted by the South Beach nutritionists.
Each original Laughing Cow wedge contains approximately 50 calories, 4 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbohydrate, while Laughing Cow 'Light' - the low-fat variation - claims a reduced 35 calories per wedge, 2 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbohydrate.
After the initial publication of the diet in April 2003, sales of Laughing Cow cheese began to increase rapidly; by August 2003 they had doubled. In fact, total Laughing Cow cheese sales reached 1.09 million kilos in 2003, according to market analysts Information Resources Inc (IRI), a 50 per cent rise on the previous year. Sales this year are expected to reach a massive 5.5 million kilos.
In response to the increased demand, the company behind the brand, Kaukauna/Bel USA, has already expanded its output of processed cheese at its Kentucky plant, and intends to sustain increased capacity for 2005. The company, a division of France's Bel group, has also had to import batches of The Laughing Cow cheese from France, a trend likely to continue well into 2005, the company said.
But the bonus for Kaukauna/Bel USA is that such a high turnover has been generated without the need for additional extensive - and expensive - marketing campaigns. The Laughing Cow website claims sales of the product have reportedly risen by as much as 500 per cent in some stores.
However, Becky Ryan, director of marketing at Bel/Kaukauna USA, was not prepared to put all the increase down to the dieting fad. She said that sales of The Laughing Cow had "already experienced 30 per cent consistent growth before the release of the South Beach Diet book" following both a sales drive for the 'light' variant and a revised marketing strategy.