Weight management no longer “just about weight loss”
08 Jul 2020 --- The holistic approach to weight management is accelerating as a trend, with a growing number of consumers becoming less concerned with losing weight and more interested in maintaining a healthy weight for overall health and wellbeing. NutritionInsight speaks with industry experts about trending diets and how personalized nutrition, digital technology and social media personalities are influencing this segment. Moreover, they forecast the future of weight management with tailored diets at its core.
Dominant diets that remain mainstream range are the ketogenic (keto), paleolithic (paleo), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean diet, according to Raúl Morales, Business Development Analyst at Nektium. “The way that these diet trends influence the nutritional industry is that they may cause a deficiency of the nutrients that would be consumed with a normal diet. When limiting food intake, and therefore nutrient uptake, supplements can compensate for the vitamins and minerals lacking in the diet.”
NPD market gap for IF diets
“Fad” diets, such as low-carb and gluten-free, are not likely to stick around for much longer, according to Mariko Hill, Product Development Executive at Gencor. In contrast, she sees intermittent fasting (IF) and vegan diets as having more potential staying-power due to their contributions as a lifestyle change or a diet that doesn’t lead to rebounding.
Also having spotted IF as a “key contender to take over in popularity,” Niki Kennedy, Senior Strategic Insights & Analytics Manager, Glanbia Nutritionals, adds that IF offers the same benefits as keto, but with perceived added support in digestive health and inflammation.
Meanwhile, veganism’s focus on animal and environmental welfare provides a more long-term, sustainable approach to vegan diets, says Hill. Companies are now catering to veganism by providing alternative animal-derived products, such as plant-based protein powder.
The demand for products catering to these varied diets is clearly abundant, but their supply remains wanting to some extent, Hill highlights. She goes on to explain that IF is a trend that “companies have surprisingly not yet targeted to.” Kennedy adds that products are “only beginning to emerge” in this space. For example, amino acids, electrolytes and micronutrients are important to those who are following IF while trying to remain active, she notes.
Regardless of which diet consumers choose, what matters is adhering to them consistently in order to see results, says Steve Fink, Vice President of Marketing at PLT Health Solutions. “There are dozens of approaches to weight loss that consumers follow these days. Whether their choices are rational is inconsequential. As marketers of consumer products, it makes sense for us to give consumers what they want – and then to develop the best products in the way that consumers want to receive them.”
Likewise, he flags the important link between diet and exercise as “necessary” for any successful weight management program. “This offers opportunities to consumer products companies and ingredient producers. Where weight management once was a single thrust – weight loss acceleration – there is now an opportunity to add two more product types that support a consumer’s diet and exercise needs.”
Restoring the image: Personalized nutrition and digital technology trending
Over the past few years, the weight-loss nutritional sector has received pushback from the medical and nutrition community on questionable weight loss benefit claims and insufficient clinical backing, says Fink.
Hill notes that this consumer distrust now provides an opportunity for companies to rebuild credibility with evidence-based ingredients. Moreover, the personalized nutrition trend has shifted industry’s approach to diets and weight management entirely. Stronger emphasis on formulation, formats and scientific backing targets particular consumer need states for product authenticity and reliability.
“Consumers now have high expectations that they can find products that will meet their specific, individual needs. The trade-off here is their willingness to pay a premium for something that is very specific to what they want. There is, however, a middle ground that most consumers seem to operate in and brands and manufacturers must accommodate this,” echoes Kennedy.
In the weight management space, digital technology is arriving in the form of e-commerce, apps and wearable technology to provide “added value” to the consumer. Recently, an Australian research project found that following a “digital diet” may help promote better results, while a US study also found that social media and peer pressure can play a crucial role.
“Weight management is a particularly competitive product category and many consumers research online extensively before making nutritional decisions. Using digital spaces to educate consumers by offering personalized product recommendations based on their lifestyle and preferences could really add value to the consumer’s journey toward their goals,” notes Kennedy.
Companies are also increasingly using digital technology as part of an influencer-driven marketing strategy, which is a sword with two edges, according to Hill. “Although this strategy is advantageous when it comes to reaching a larger audience, the information that some influencers provide may not be scientifically-validated, thus may lead to the promotion of a product that may cause harm to consumers.”
Consequently, companies can seize the opportunity to educate such influencers with scientific rationale behind the product, she continues, who will create a “push-pull” effect from a B2C perspective – with influencers building brand trust with consumers.
The future of weight management
Within the growing sports nutrition sector, the weight management segment is “no longer only about slimming, but also about shaping the body,” says Morales. Additional physical benefits that weight-conscious consumers are concerned with include combating stress and getting adequate sleep, adds Kennedy.
The key is for consumers to understand the holistic approach of weight management, Hill affirms. “Rather than ‘weight loss’ claims, brands should look to use words more revolved around ‘satiety’ and ‘appetite suppression,’ as products in this category do not solely target those individuals looking to lose weight, but also for those looking to manage their hunger cues,” she emphasizes.
“Stacking” is also a trend to keep an eye out for, where micronutrients, hydration, satiety and other needs are combined into a personalized “stack” product. The debate rages on as to how this can be achieved most effectively. Fink asserts that today’s weight management market increasingly features complex, multi-ingredient formulations. “These formulations succeed via differentiation and innovation to gain and maintain market share and generate profitability.”
Meanwhile, Kennedy notes how brands often offer a variety of products that fit consumers’ specific needs, rather than providing a bespoke blend of ingredients in one format, which can be quite complicated and expensive.
“As consumers begin to gain knowledge about their individual genetic make-ups and microbiomes, they will become even more dialed into their individual needs. While there will always be a need for general weight management products, many consumers will look to individualize their approach and their product choices to their body,” she concludes.
By Anni Schleicher
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