Riots Not Diets!

“Healthy Lifestyles” Rising as Dieting Falls

Google Ngram Viewer - Dieting and Healthy LifestyleConsumer research experts tell us that everyone is pursuing healthy lifestyles and running from the notion of dieting. And if you look at the waning fortunes of large, well-established diet brands, you will find a pattern that supports this notion.

Diet sodas like Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are suffering sales declines even as consumers are fleeing from sugar-sweetened beverages. Consumer perceptions of health risks with artificial sweeteners are part of the story. But it seems that the larger dynamic of consumers shunning diet brands generally is important. Coke Life and Pepsi True are a response to these dynamics.

Low-calorie, low-fat, and light products are suffering likewise. Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and other portion-control frozen meals are all seeing declining sales. “Light” yogurt brands are giving way to “Greek” yogurt which seems to have a cachet that speaks of health more than dieting.

Wellness has more appeal than dieting to consumers, we are told. Thus Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Slim Fast brands have been finding themselves on the wrong side of consumer preference dynamics. All are experiencing sales pressure in an environment where the weight loss benefits are no longer so highly prized by consumers.

Consumers increasingly want to trade depriving for thriving. “Fresh” is killing “convenient” as a selling point. Even skinny ain’t what it used to be. (Does this mean skinny jeans are doomed?) Extreme thinness is met with consumer backlash as fewer people can personally identify. This may explain increasing resentment of fat shaming.

Consumer research is a blend of artful observation and behavioral science. Controlled experiments are uncommon. But it’s hard to mistake the shift in preferences we’re seeing.

Click here to read a report on related consumer trends observed in social media. Click here to read more about how these dynamics are affecting beverage companies.

Riots Not Diets! Photograph © Duncan Hull / flickr

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6 Responses to ““Healthy Lifestyles” Rising as Dieting Falls”

  1. October 02, 2014 at 8:29 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Nice piece, Ted (as usual, of course).

    Where do you think this leads? Do you think that any marketers have this figured out?j

    Joe

  2. October 02, 2014 at 9:31 pm, Ted said:

    Thanks, Joe, for your thoughtful questions. Food marketers have clearly figured this out and they are trying to cope with the changing dynamics. With some healthy give and take, it can lead to a healthier food environment. But less positive outcomes — as you and I have seen before — are possible. That’s why healthy give and take that engages smart people in the process is so important.

  3. October 03, 2014 at 7:15 am, Mary-Jo Overwater said:

    I so hope these trends don’t swing so far as to encourage that ‘fresh’ and ‘healthy’ foods and products can be consumed ad libitum and that products that do help folks to control their caloric intake don’t disappear. Companies just want to sell products and let’s just hope that the healthy ‘give and take’ prevails and they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater at the expense of pushing for ‘what the public wants’. Those of us who are experts in weight and nutrition have to make our voices heard to help companies. I wouldn’t want to enable the thinking that it’s ok to be overweight. I understand that it’s totally possible to be overweight (certainly, vs. tables or textbook definitions of what a person should weigh or what BMI is ‘best) and in good health, but, in general, people still need to respect that weight management/control is key to good health and it’s more likely that not being overweight is better for you.

  4. October 03, 2014 at 4:00 pm, Ted said:

    Mary-Jo, your concerns are certainly valid. It’s so easy to rationalize excess in the name of “healthy eating.” These dynamics are a fact, but not necessarily a solution and not the final word. Trends come and go.

  5. October 06, 2014 at 3:49 pm, Rion said:

    Ted, thank you for referencing Infegy’s report on health trends in your post. In several other analyses of consumers online, we’ve noticed a big shift in focus from diet products to natural foods.

    For example, in a comparison of consumer perceptions of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, we found that while negative health effects related to aspartame and high fructose corn syrup were of the highest concern for consumers, stevia was frequently referenced very positively as a natural and more healthy alternative.

    The remaining question is, “Will this change from artificial to natural sweeteners reverse the trend?” Given what you outlined above, along with what we’re seeing online, it is unlikely that the trend will see a reversal anytime soon, as it is the very concept of diet products that consumers seem to be shunning.

    Full Coca-Cola / Pepsi report here: http://www2.infegy.com/coca-cola-and-pepsi-consumer-brand-analysis_by-Infegy

    Rion

  6. October 06, 2014 at 5:23 pm, Ted said:

    Thanks, Rion, for providing further insight.