The market for weight loss foods has dropped more than 25 percent in five years, from about $217 million to $159 million. The most significant loss was among meal replacement shakes and cereal bars, where the market fell 64 percent from its 2001 levels of $177 million, to only $63 million in 2006. Mintel predicts that the market will drop by almost 50 percent more over the next five years.
The drop in the weight loss market may be due in large part to the Atkins diet, which spiked in popularity three years ago. At its height, the diet spawned entire lines of weight loss products. But after its founder, Dr. Robert Atkins, was revealed to have been clinically obese, concerns over the diet's health effects grew and the market for Atkins products collapsed.
According to the Mintel study, 40 percent of consumers now prefer more natural ways of losing weight, such as diet and exercise, and would not use artificial products.
A spokesperson for the British Nutrition Foundation said that these products "often only provide a short-term solution. Eating a balanced diet of whole foods and taking exercise three times a week is generally the best long-term weight to lose weight."
But she added that "there is nothing necessarily wrong with manufactured slimming foods."
Researcher Katie Child agreed. "The market needs to highlight the benefits of using slimming foods to kick-start weight loss in a move toward a healthier lifestyle ... in order to stem the decline," she said.
Mike Adams, author of "The Food Timing Diet," disagrees. "Many consumers don't realize this, but popular meal replacement shakes are mostly made with sugar," he said.
"Eating diet processed foods won't make you lose weight. Genuine weight loss only comes from switching to natural, unprocessed, unrefined foods provided by Mother Nature, not food factories."