British dieter wants easy messages and food

Related tags Nutrition

Clarity and convenience are what the dieting British public wants
from food companies if a new survey by Mintel is anything to go by,
which highlighted "confusion" as the greatest barrier to market
growth for low-carb products.

Few people have not heard about the low-carb trend, but the research found that only three per cent of British adults - a mere 1.35 million people - are currently following such a regime and almost a quarter of respondents believed that the government should establish guidelines as to what a food company can say is low-carb. Indeed, as many as 70 per cent of British adults have never been on a low-carb diet and would not consider doing so in the future.

Moreover, just 16 per cent of consumers stated they would cut down on carbohydrates to lose weight; around half said they would cut down on fat and 36 per cent said they would reduce their sugar intake. Others, prefer to control the "naughty but nice"​ elements of their diet, with 32 per cent saying they would give up chocolate, 30 per cent would halt their snacking and 20 per cent would stop the booze.

However, despite these mixed messages, there is obviously a low-carb market out there - Mintel valued it at approximately £280 million in 2004.

"This is not a huge amount as a lump sum, but per head it is quite a significant amount,"​ James McCoy, senior consumer analyst at Mintel, told NutraIngredients.

But, this is still confused data as those consuming low-carb products are not necessarily being successful in losing weight. As McCoy explains there are some people who will be evangelical about the diet, but others who will use low-carb products to make themselves feel better. For example, having a Diet Coke with their pizza or a low-fat ice-cream at the end of a big meal.

Furthermore, most low-carb products on the market are snacks and convenience foods - the British public appears to want to lose weight without giving up its treats and hectic lifestyle.

This lack of clarity is in turn causing confusion among food producers. As McCoy points out, in the US they no longer know what information to put on packaging - low-carb, low-sugar or low-fat?

In the UK, Tesco now puts the low-glycemic index on all its products, but how many customers actually understand this information?

"There are all these different messages out there and now there is the low-salt message,"​ said McCoy, highlighting the latest healthy-eating line to come out of the UK.

But, he concluded that while there is a need for simpler, more easy to understand messages: "The future of any market whether low-carb or not has more to do with convenience than with any other dietary trends."

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