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By: Lisa Holmes

New Year’s weight-loss resolutions might last, but only for some

In early January of each year, millions of consumers resolve to lose weight or improve their eating habits. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions do not always last for more than a few weeks and by Valentine’s Day many will have already returned to their usual eating habits. However, some consumers with particularly strong will power are able to successfully follow a weight-loss diet, whether all the time or as-needed throughout the year. Others choose to actively monitor what they eat from day to day in order to maintain a consistent number on the scale.

To better understand the weight-conscious consumer, Euromonitor International reached out to 16,300 online consumers in nine markets in the 2013 Global Consumer Trends survey. This article examines who these consumers are, how dieters differ from weight ‘maintainers’, and how marketers can target both groups more effectively.

Profile of the weight-conscious consumer

Which demographics are most likely to diet? Who opts to stay in ‘maintenance mode’? Understanding the ‘dieter’ and ‘maintainer’ demographic profiles is a crucial first step for marketers hoping to better connect with these consumers.

Women more likely to diet, but both genders watch what they eat

Women are sometimes thought to be more focused on their weight than their male counterparts, and survey results indicate that this stereotype does hold some truth. Weight-loss dieters are nearly twice as likely to be female than male: 29% of global female consumers follow a weight loss diet compared to 17% of male consumers. However, the gender gap is smaller when it comes to weight maintainers. Plenty of men—40%—strive to eat well and keep track of their weight on a regular basis, compared with 48% of women.

 

Chart                      Global Dieting Habits, by Gender

Survey-Diet-1

Source:    Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Consumer Trends Survey, 2013

Note:        Showing percent of respondents who indicated that they are trying to lose weight or monitor what they eat.

 

Young consumers follow an ‘indulge, repair, repeat’ eating cycle

Though metabolism typically slows with age, dieting is most common among those in their teens, twenties and thirties. Older consumers instead tend to stick to a regular weight maintenance routine. It may be that as people age they become more routine-bound in general, or perhaps they learn over time which foods make them feel good (and which ones do not) so they stick with what works. Younger people, by contrast, may be more inclined to eat whatever they want then compensate by dieting later. Thus, not only should marketers consider under 40s a strong target for diet foods and regimens, they may want to reach this segment by positioning such fare as a form of atonement for those occasional periods of indulgence.

 

Chart                      Global Dieting Habits, by Age

Survey-Diet-2

Source:    Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Consumer Trends Survey, 2013

Note:        Showing percent of respondents who indicated that they are trying to lose weight or monitor what they eat.

 

US, UK, Indian and Japanese consumers most likely to cut calories

Obesity is growing a global issue, but approaches to weight management vary from country to country. Dieting is most common in the US, UK, India and Japan, with Indian women the staunchest devotees of any demographic: four in ten online female consumers in India are on a weight loss diet. By comparison, just two in ten female consumers in France or China are trying to lose weight, and rates are even lower among men. Weight maintenance, however, is much more of a focus among French and Chinese consumers than it is for those living in the US, UK, or Japan.

Chart                      Dieting Habits, by Country

Survey-Diet-3

Source:    Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Consumer Trends Survey, 2013

Note:        Showing percent of respondents who indicated that they are trying to lose weight or monitor what they eat.

Weight-conscious consumers are more health-focused in general

A true understanding of the weight-conscious consumer should go beyond demographic traits. By examining how these consumers approach eating, health and well-being more generally, marketers can design products and marketing strategies that better align with consumers’ lifestyles. For example, weight-loss dieters are the least likely group to consider themselves “very healthy” and may be looking for products that help them both lose weight and improve other areas of their health, such as blood pressure or cholesterol. In contrast, nearly three-quarters of weight maintainers consider themselves healthy and are likely looking for products and services that reinforce their already positive lifestyle habits.

Chart              Self-ratings of Personal Health

Survey-Diet-4

Source:    Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Consumer Trends Survey, 2013

Note:        Showing percent of respondents who rated their personal health as “healthy” or “very healthy”.

Maintainers balance fitness and food, while weight-loss dieters keep their eyes on nutrition

To some extent, concern for weight correlates not only with perceptions of one’s own health but also with one’s broader concern for healthy living. Both dieters and maintainers are less likely than average to smoke and more likely to take vitamins or supplements on a regular basis. Physical fitness is a different story, however. While weight-loss dieters exercise at the same rate as the general population, maintainers tend to be gym rats: 70% exercise weekly or even every day, compared to 54% of the total population.

This variation in fitness habits suggests that maintainers see weight management as a multi-pronged effort—both diet and exercise play a role—whereas dieters focus mainly on what they eat. While the former group might gravitate toward brands geared towards athletes, dieters may find it difficult to connect personally with such fitness-oriented marketing messages. Brands and retailers should focus on the role of diet and nutrition, rather than exercise, to connect with the actively dieting group.

 

Chart                      Healthy Living Habits

Survey-Diet-5

Source:    Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Consumer Trends Survey, 2013

Note:        Showing percent of respondents who do the indicated activity at least weekly.

No difference in ready meal consumption, but maintainers are more likely to cook at home

In addition to fitness, cooking and eating habits have a large impact on a consumer’s weight and overall health. Indeed, while experts have blamed fast food and processed fare for contributing to weight gain, survey results indicate that those who actively monitor their diet eat such foods just as often as those who want to lose weight. Moreover, both groups consume ready meals and takeaway at roughly the same rate as the general population. This opens up many opportunities for brands and retailers in the foodservice industry to offer diet-friendly frozen meals or restaurant options for the weight-conscious consumer who is short on time or energy, but still seeks to restrict their calories.

 

Chart                      Eating and Meal Preparation Habits

Survey-Diet-6

Source:    Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Consumer Trends Survey, 2013

Note:        Showing percent of respondents who do the indicated activity at least weekly.

The weight-conscious tend to be image-conscious, too

Finally, survey results reveal notable attitudinal differences between the weight-conscious and those who eat as they please. Compared to the overall population, both dieters and maintainers express greater concern for how others perceive them, and both groups are also more likely to say they like to stand out in a crowd. Their image-conscious mentality may make these consumers more receptive to marketing that emphasises how losing weight (or keeping it off) boosts confidence and increases social standing.

Business implications

While weight-loss dieters and maintainers share several key characteristics, such as an overall healthy lifestyle, they should not necessarily be targeted in the same way by brands and retailers. For example, dieters tend to be younger and are less likely to consider themselves in good health. Maintainers, in general, take a more holistic view of their health and incorporate both fitness and eating habits in an effort to keep their weight in check. Blanket marketing strategies aimed at all weight-conscious consumers may be less successful than those that take these nuances into account.

Offer weight loss and maintenance solutions to both genders

Euromonitor’s Global Consumer Trends survey findings suggest that gender stereotypes surrounding weight management are more nuanced than they seem. While women may be the key audience for diet fare, men are interested in healthy foods too, especially those which can be easily integrated into their daily routine. And given that both genders are more apt to maintain rather than lose weight, products and services that track daily nutritional intake can be marketed to men and women alike.

Tailor products and services to in-country preferences

When developing regionally-specific products or marketing strategies, companies should take cultural approaches toward weight management into consideration. For example, do consumers wait until the scale tips before they change their eating habits, or do they follow more consistent eating regimens? Though dieting is not mutually exclusive from maintaining weight (Euromonitor’s survey allowed respondents to select both options), results suggest that in some countries one approach dominates. For example, consumers in France and China are not only the least likely to diet, they are the most likely to actively monitor what they eat. The inverse is true in Japan and the US.

Match marketing messages with perceptions of health

Dieters are less likely than average to rate themselves as healthy. As a result, marketers trying to connect with this consumer group might emphasise how diet changes contribute to overall health improvements (e.g. ‘may help lower cholesterol’; ‘improves digestion’, etc.). Maintainers, conversely, are more likely than average to rate their health highly. Marketing to this group will be most effective by highlighting how products can help them ‘keep up a good thing’.

Pair diet and weight management products with the desire to stand out

Both dieters and weight maintainers are more likely to be concerned with how they are perceived by those around them than the overall population. In addition to their desire to stay in shape and have a slim figure, these consumers want to stand out from the crowd. Brands and retailers hoping to reach the weight-conscious consumer should use this heightened level of personal image awareness in their marketing campaigns. In particular, advertisements that highlight the social benefits of using a weight-loss product or the trendiness of a diet solution will appeal to the status-seeking nature of these consumers.

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