- Diet foods are losing their appeal as consumers choose "healthy" foods instead, such as high-protein, gluten-free, non-GMO, or organic, and food and beverage manufacturers are adjusting their product development and marketing strategies in response.
- About 94% of respondents to a Mintel survey don't classify themselves as being on a diet anymore. More than three-quarters said diet products are not as healthy as their marketing says they are, and 61% don't believe that most diets are really all that healthy.
- This has impacted manufacturers whose portfolios include diet products, but companies whose primary focus was the diet foods market are really taking the hit, including Weight Watchers, Medifast, Jenny Craig, and Lean Cuisine, with the latter seeing sales drop about 15% between summer 2014 and summer 2015.
"Americans are just simply not dieting anymore," Jeff Hamilton, Nestle USA’s president of prepared foods, told Food Dive last June.
The diet soda industry demonstrates this trend. Coca-Cola has reported Diet Coke revenue dips in the mid-single digits for the past several quarters. Pepsi Cola overtook Diet Coke as the No. 2 soda brand in the U.S. by volume for 2014. PepsiCo has also looked to its own diet brand for innovation and replaced aspartame with sucralose and acesulfame potassium in Diet Pepsi for the U.S. market, though the switch has been met with criticism from consumers.
Lean Cuisine is making its own internal changes to adapt to the shift away from diet products. In its latest ad campaign launched in time for New Year's resolutions earlier this year, the company developed devices and browser extensions that either mute TV advertisements or block out diet and weight loss-related words in online content.
Even before the campaign, Lean Cuisine was undergoing the biggest overhaul in the company's history as it refocused its efforts and messaging around organic, high-protein, and gluten-free meals instead of fat and calories.
"You see a much greater concern around what’s in their food, where it comes from, who makes it. Certainly that influences the way we need to formulate our own products," Hamilton said.