Unless you have been living under a rock for the last hundred years, you have likely heard of or tried a special diet in your lifetime. It’s nearly impossible to watch television, scroll through social media, read a magazine, or even go to the grocery store, without seeing numerous diet products or programs being advertised through a variety of market channels.
From pills to supplements, meal replacement powders to ready-made meals, and programs to tracking apps, the diet industry has its hands in almost every area of the consumer market. It is an enormous, efficiently run machine that dominates the food and supplement industry, but what exactly gives it so much power?
The rise of the diet industry began to take shape as the incidences of overweight and obese adults and children in the United States became more prevalent. What started out as an attempt to help combat the rise of obesity, quickly resulted in a highly profitable market that continued to gain traction as years went by.
The diet industry encompasses a multitude of products geared toward weight loss. The problem? Most of these products and programs advertised as “quick fixes” are not sustainable for most Americans, yet they are highly appealing.
The promises of immediate and substantial weight loss with minimal effort can be incredibly captivating to consumers, luring them into purchasing their products. However, once the novelty wears off and the results promised do not meet expectations, consumers will typically ditch the products or program and inevitably try another. This vicious cycle further fuels the obesity epidemic while supporting the growth of popular fad diets that have been proven ineffective and even detrimental to the health and wellness of consumers.
Diet Industry Statistics – Highlights
To give you an idea of the massive hold the diet industry has on American citizens, below are some statistics showing the impact and value of the current diet industry.
- The diet industry was estimated to be worth $72 billion in 2018
- Prescription weight loss medications are a $655 million market all on their own
- In 2018, an estimated 239,000 bariatric surgeries were performed with an estimated growth rate of about 5% per year
- In 2018 It was estimated that about 44 million Americans go on a diet each year.
- From 2017 to 2020, 41.9% of U.S. adults were categorized as obese
Adult obesity continues to increase, with 16 states now with a prevalence of over 35% in 2020
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia all have a prevalence of adult obesity over 35%. This number has increased from 12 states in 2019. With an increase in obesity prevalence, the growing desire for quick-fix weight-loss products and programs grows, further contributing to the massive weight loss market.
From 2015 to 2018 the most common special diet reported among U.S. adults was weight loss or low-calorie diets
Although the diet industry contributes to other forms of special diets, most of their profit comes from weight loss. Low-calorie diets have been a popular route for weight loss for decades, with familiar brands, including Nutrisystem and WW (formerly Weight Watchers), ruling the roost.
15% of U.S. adults have used a weight-loss supplement at some point in their lives
More women report the use of weight-loss dietary supplements than men, with women at about 21% and men at about 10%. With supplements being a convenient option, the chance to lose weight quickly without having to prepare a meal or snack can draw in a large population of consumers. However, weight loss supplements can be pricey, further contributing to the high-profit margin of the industry itself.
Americans spend an estimated 2.1 billion a year on weight loss pills
This encompasses tablets, soft gels, and capsules, another pricey weight loss product on the market enticing consumers to open their wallets. Believed to be a magic solution to their weight loss problems, these pills are often seen as a shortcut or easy route to avoid the painstaking traditional dietary and exercise lifestyle changes recommended for weight loss. Unfortunately, many of these pills are recommended, or work best, when used in conjunction with diet and lifestyle changes. Nonetheless, they are still widely popular and continue to grow throughout the industry.
The U.S. dietary supplement market had an estimated value of $46 billion in 2020
That is over half of the overall diet industry’s net worth in 2018 on just supplements alone. These supplements can include weight loss pills and powders, meal replacement drinks or shakes, fat burners, and anything in between. More and more of these products are entering the market with promises of a convenient way to reach your weight loss or health goals. Unfortunately, these supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as medications, but as food. Because of this, many of these claims do not require research to back them up, leading many consumers down a path of disappointment.
The virtual weight loss market grew to $1.4 billion in 2019
As convenience continues to be a key factor for consumers on their weight loss journey, the virtual health and wellness market has skyrocketed. With the ability to track your intake and receive diet advice through your phone or tablet at your convenience, it’s no wonder it’s quickly becoming more popular than traditional methods. Even age-old weight loss programs are getting with the times and releasing new apps or online programs to keep their customers happy.
Nearly half (49.1%) of U.S. adults attempted to lose weight in 2018
With such a large population of American citizens looking for ways to reduce the number on the scale, it only makes sense that companies would see this as an opportunity to generate a hefty revenue. Although not all 49.1% of U.S. adults will purchase or participate in programs that feed the diet industry, the vast majority will, at some point, give them a try.
In 2020, 24% of Americans reported they believe sugar is the most likely culprit of weight gain
This can be seen throughout the diet industry in its products and programs being put out into the market in recent years. With the rise of the popular keto diet and many sugar-free alternatives, this industry has downright villainized sugar in the eyes of consumers. Although low sugar, low carb diets have been around for decades, they have recently come back in style in a variety of forms to pique the interest of any dieter looking to try something different.
A 2009 study showed obesity to be more common in lower-income Americans with lower education
Unfortunately, many of those who struggle the most with overweight and obesity issues fall within a lower socioeconomic class, leaving them more likely to be subjected to false diet claims on product packaging and in the media. At the same time, these are also the consumers that are least likely able to afford some of these diet products.
The media has made consumers believe that choosing a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is too expensive for most consumers. Unfortunately, consumers then turn to specialized diet and health food products that are even more expensive options.
By 2027, it is estimated that the worldwide weight management industry will be worth $423.2 billion
Within just 7 years, the worldwide weight management industry is expected to grow to tremendous levels. Although not all of this industry is filled with evil corporations looking to make a quick buck at the consumer’s expense, most of the products and services that fall into these categories turn out to be more hurtful than helpful when it comes to healthy, long-term, sustainable weight loss for the general public.