Natural is key to UK weight loss market, says Mintel

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Mintel

Consumers in the UK are seeking a more natural approach to weight
management, according to Mintel, a trend that signals some of the
latest ingredients in the sector could be right on the money.

According to a new report from Mintel called "Slimming Foods"​, the overall UK market for food products aimed at dieters has shrunk from a value of £100m in 2001 to just over £81m in 2006.

But market analyst Katy Child told NutraIngredients.com that that the main drag has been in meal replacements such as shakes and bars, and diet plans that offer counselling alongside an entire plan built around diet products. With interest in natural foods increasing in general, diet products positioned on a natural platform are showing the greatest potential.

"The way things are going is natural,"​ said Child. "When they read the side of a can [of a meal replacement product] the average person is not going to say 'I know where that comes from'."

Moreover, appetite suppressants represent area that has experienced growth in the past five years. It was valued by Mintel at £7.3m in 2001, and at £9m in 2006.

This is good news for companies that have developed weight management ingredients derived from natural sources. For instance, DSM's Fabuless (formerly Olibra, and now sold as a supplement in the UK called Slimthru) is made from palm and oat oils; Lipid Nutrition's PinnoThin is derived from Korean pine nuts; and Berkem's Svetol from green coffee beans.

Child said that there is a need to promote the natural origin of these substances to consumers.

As far as whether supplements or foods are the format of choice, Child said that supplements, such as Adios and Zotrim, are at a competitive advantage to other formats because they are perceived by consumers as being more medicinal (even though they are regulated as foods, not as medicines).

However some health professionals are reported to be sceptical, and particularly concerned that consumers may be restricting their nutrient intake in the mistaken believe that they can eat whatever they like, and make no lifestyle changes.

Moreover foods that boast enhanced satiety on the basis of whole grain or fibre content represent a return to a more traditional era of eating - but with a modern, convenient twist.

"Ready meals did so well because they are so convenient,"​ Child said. "What's new is that natural, healthy products are coming in a convenient format, so people don't have to think about it.

Convenient and natural go hand-in-hand."

The Mintel report covers foods that are specifically marketed to people aiming to lose weight. It does not cover foods formulated with less fat, sugar, or calories since these may be chosen by people simply wishing to follow a healthier diet rather than specifically slim down.

Healthier foods not aimed exclusively at the weight loss market will be the subject of another Mintel report to be published later this year.

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