As millions of Britons pledge a healthy start to 2012, only six in 10 (61%) of UK consumers say that they know what they should and shouldn’t eat to lose weight, according to the report Dieting Trends - UK. That figure dropped to only 55% of men.
Alex Beckett, Mintel’s senior food analyst, said: “This presents manufacturers with an opportunity to take the lead and help consumers understand the importance of calories via educational marketing activity.
“Consumers’ uncertainty about calories and what foods to avoid to lose weight stems from a wider lack of clarity about what is and isn’t healthy. To excite sales growth, diet food manufacturers must tackle this consumer confusion in a way that all people will relate to.”
Failing to register
The research suggests consumers are going on diets despite being uncertain about what they should eat, she added. It also implies that advice surrounding calorie consumption is failing to register among a sizeable chunk of the population – particularly men.
More than one in 10 consumers (12%) agreed with the statement: “I’d like to lose weight, but I don’t know how.” Just 41% of respondents said they knew how many calories a day they should consume.
The number of adults who try to eat a low-fat food products has also dropped from 44% to 37% between 2008-11. But half of consumers claim that "most of the time" they eat carefully to help control their weight.
Despite the economic downturn, there has been little change in the number of consumers who have been on a diet but the share of those who often go on diets has fallen marginally by 0.8% between 2007 and 2011.
The uncertain economic outlook may have an impact on future growth as consumers grow more concerned about their financial situation than their weight. The research revealed that “my own financial situation” was deemed a personal concern by 59% of adults last year whereas "my health" was deemed a concern by just 41%.
“It appears that, living in a difficult economic climate, consumers are choosing to prioritise their finances over their health,” said Beckett. “This, coupled with low awareness about what should and should not be eaten to lose weight and eat healthily, presents a challenge for the industry to connect with these consumers.”
The diet and weight control foods market is currently valued at £1.6M. The sector is forecast to grow by 7% to £1.7M by 2016.