The European market for diet foods is likely to grow steadily over the next few years as the population continues to grow heavier and more out of shape, according to a new report from market analysts Datamonitor.
The persistent media image of the ideal body has made consumers more conscious of their own figure, the report suggests, in turn fuelling the growth in the dieting market. But it is about more than just losing weight, Datamonitor suggests - people are now keen to hone and tone their bodies as well, and this impetus should push the value of the diet market to something in the region of €96 billion by 2006, the report predicts.
Datamonitor suggests that one-third of western European consumers are now overweight, suggesting that by 2006 this will have increased to almost half. Germany, Italy and Spain will be the heaviest countries with over 50 per cent of their population being medically overweight, it said, while the UK and France will be comparatively lighter at only 40 per cent.
"Over the past couple of decades, our diets have become much less regulated, breaking away from the three meals a day structure in favour of convenience," said Andrew Russell, Datamonitor consumer markets analyst and author of the report.
"Modern diets are more calorific, yet people expend less energy during the day - this is mainly due to the more sedentary nature of the work people do nowadays. But although the average person's body is getting bigger, this is driving increasing interest in maintaining and developing a good physique, even if this interest does not always translate into long-term lifestyle changes. Both those who find themselves overweight and those who are keen to avoid being in that position are increasingly interested in using both exercise and diet to manage their shape. As a result, the diet food and drinks market will be worth €96 billion by 2006."
The report said that the slowest growth in the diet foods market will come from the confectionery and fats and spreads sectors, while the fastest growth will come from the dairy products and bakery segments, mostly because these are the areas focused on by diet food manufacturers and which therefore offer the highest levels of choice.
But as with so many positive trends, there is a flip side, Datamonitor warned. While the diet food market will continue to grow as consumers become more health conscious, the alcoholic drinks industry is likely to suffer, with shape-conscious consumers abstaining from alcohol (in particular beer) to such an extent that it could cost the industry up to €5 billion by 2006.