UK still cold on low-carbs says report

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Low-carb diets, Nutrition, Bread, Carbohydrate

Low-carb diets are still on the fringe of British eating habits,
with high drop-out rates and consumer cynicism over health
benefits, according to a new report - confirming the UK bakery
industry's view that low-carbs pose no immediate threat to sales of
bakery products. Chris Mercer reports.

There are around 50 million adults in Britain, yet 70 per cent of them would never consider trying a low-carb diet, and only a hardcore of 1.35 million are currently following one, according to a report by market analysts Mintel​.

A further 10 per cent of adult Britons have tried a low-carb diet but since dropped out, though the report does say that the rise of obesity in the UK will maintain a significant potential market for low-carb diets for years to come.

Senior consumer analyst at Mintel, James McCoy, said: "While many consumers may have been attracted to the promise of significant weight loss, they appear to have found it a difficult diet to stick to in the long term. A number of dieters have not found this diet worked for them and it may be that they did not fully understand or trust it."

The news serves to bolster the view by the bakery industry that sales of traditionally higher carb products such as bread have not been affected by low-carb diets in Britain.

"Our research suggests that bread still provides one of the mainstays of the British diet, used in 99 per cent of households,"​ said John White, director of the Federation of Bakers, to BakeryandSnacks.com​ in June this year.

The Mintel report backs up this claim, reporting that two thirds of consumers were eating the same amount of bread now as one year earlier.

But global low-carb product launches have increased from 96 in 2001 to 2,663 in 2004 and McCoy believes the UK market has not yet reached its peak.

He said that he thought the number of low-carb dieters would probably not increase much more, but there was good potential for low-carb products to become part of a balanced everyday diet - something which the bakery industry could turn to its advantage.

"Consumers need to be convinced that low-carb foods are not just for those on a low-carb diet. Low-carb may even occupy a position similar to Diet Coke in allowing consumers to feel better about cheating occasionally,"​ said McCoy, adding that one example could be fast food restaurants offering burgers in low-carb bread rolls.

Some UK bakers are aware of this and have already begun to accommodate consumers who wish to incorporate low-carb products into their eating habits.

In July this year British Bakeries launched its Hovis Best With Less Low-Carb Bread, a white loaf containing 25 per cent fewer carbs than normal white bread. "It is important that the bakery industry ensures there are options out there for people who want low-carb products,"​ said McCoy.

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