Many U.S. consumers make up their own diets - survey

Many bulge-battling Americans are following self-designed diets, even as the mania surrounding low-carbohydrate weight-loss regimens like Atkins and South Beach continue to generate headlines, a new survey shows.

One-quarter of U.S. consumers have tried a self-styled diet, while nearly 7 percent are currently on one, according to the survey by market research firm NPD Group. That compared with about 17 percent of Americans who said they have tried the Atkins diet, while just four percent are on it now.

“Americans are adjusting a number of diets to develop one that fits their lifestyle,” the survey said.

The popular high-protein Atkins and South Beach diets, which eschew bread and pasta, have inspired weight-conscious consumers to lighten up on carbs, though few are necessarily sticking to a specific regimen.

“The buzz on Atkins is not those few actually following the diet, but the people who are trying low-carb or high protein dishes, even though they do not claim to be on the diet,” said Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD Group.

In recent months, many of the biggest U.S. foodmakers, from Kellogg Co. to Hershey Foods Corp., have rolled out foods like low-carb cereals and chocolate bars in a bid to cater to the millions of Americans following diets that favor high-protein foods and those made with sugar alternatives.

U.S. restaurant chains have also caught on to the trend, and many now serve hamburgers without the bun or substitute vegetable side dishes instead of rice or potatoes.

As a brand, the Atkins diet is now as recognizable to consumers as Weight Watchers International Inc. and Jenny Craig, with 73 percent of consumers saying they have heard of all three of those diets, NPD Group said.

But Balzer cautioned that companies should beware of investing too much in the low-carb trend.

“The truth of the matter is that low-carb will follow all the other trends,” Balzer said. “My advice: Offer the low-carb product, but don’t build the plant.”

Still, the survey showed that 15 percent of adults agree that a low-carb diet is the best way to lose weight, suggesting that the low-carb craze is far from fading out.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD