29M Brits tried to lose weight last year

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Weight Nutrition

Weighty problem: more than half of Britons tried to lose weight last year
Weighty problem: more than half of Britons tried to lose weight last year
More than half of Britain – 29M people or 55% of the population – tried to lose weight in the 12 months to September 2013, while diet food sales showed only modest growth, reveals research from Mintel.

British women were the most enthusiastic dieters, with nearly two thirds (65%) claiming to have tried to shed weight in the year to September 2013. Nearly half (44%) of men tried to lose weight over the same period.

But an increasingly diet-conscious nation was not boosting sales of diet foods. Diet product sales increased by only 7% over the past five years to reach £1.8bn last year.

Sales rose by 2% in 2013, after falling by 1% in the previous year. Biscuits and yogurts were strong performing sectors, with annual growth rates forecast to reach 7% and 12% respectively last year.

Market was held back

Mintel said the market was held back by negative connotations related to diet food products, leading consumers to choose other means of weight loss. More than half (59%) of consumers worried about the ingredients or artificial sweeteners in diet foods, while 55% doubted the authenticity of significant calorific differences between these and their standard alternatives.

Other objections included: the perception of small serving sizes, voiced by 51% of shoppers, and distrust that diet brands provide nutritious food. Only 32% trusted such brands to make nutritious food.

Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel, confirmed: “Sales of diet and weight control foods are struggling, which is at odds with the huge consumer interest in losing weight, framed by rising levels of obesity.

“There is a myriad of other routes towards weight loss that consumers prefer over buying ‘light’ or ‘diet’ food, with exercising more being the most popular, furthermore, the market is hampered by negative perceptions in terms of healthiness and portion sizes.”

Dietary changes

More than half (60%) of consumers prioritised exercise over making dietary changes – such as eating less fatty foods (49%), smaller portions (48%) and cutting back on sugary foods and drinks (48%). Less than half (41%) cut their dessert intake.

The drive to shed pounds reflected the strong societal focus on weight, size and diet, said Clifford. “The fact that exercise tops the nation’s dieting actions reflects high levels of awareness about the importance of exercise to general health and wellbeing, as well as the pleasure that sport gives to many consumers.”

Also, undertaking more physical activity to burn more calories may make people feel less guilty about eating certain foods, said Clifford. That was good news for ‘standard’ brands but less favourable for light and diet products.

Nearly half (45%) of Britons associated foods which contribute to their recommended five-a-day with healthiness. That was followed by low-fat or fat-free (42%) and low-sugar or sugar-free foods (42%). But only just over a quarter (27%) chose ‘light’ or ‘diet’ foods when eating healthily.

Meanwhile, eating an apple a day could prevent 8,500 deaths​, according to research published last month in the British Medical Journal​.


Diet figures

  • 13% of those trying to lose weight have kept a food diary and 10% used a dieting app.
  • 39% prefer the 5:2 diet, making it the nation’s favourite.
  • 32% prefer low carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins.
  • 25% prefer high protein or low fat diet plans such as Dukan.

Source: Mintel

Related topics Health and nutritional ingredients

Related news

Show more

Related suppliers

1 comment

The reason why so many are failing

Posted by Erin B. White,

An interesting read, it shows that obesity is a real problem.

Regarding the part about how most women are prioritising exercise over dieting, I personally think this is one of the main reasons why people fail to lose weight. In my opinion, a healthy diet is far more important for long-term weight loss than exercise.

I am not saying exercise isn't important. It is just that doing exercise without proper nutrition is like putting the cart in front of the horse.

Report abuse

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast