The bad economy and tighter budgets have propelled growth in the "do-it-yourself" weight loss market, but not in the other areas of the industry such as diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs and commercial weight loss chains.
According to MarketData Enterprises, a leading independent market research publisher, the estimated $70 billion U.S. weight loss market that is still reeling from the decline in the country's economy, has been experiencing a flat to low growth in the recent years.
One reason for the decline was that 80% of America's more than 75 million dieters are trying to lose weight by themselves to save on their dollars. The dieters took advantage of the free and do-it-yourself diet plans which they can access from several sources such as diet books, diet websites, diet pills, and meal replacement programs.
"American dieters were faced with a lousy economy, rising gas prices, and limited discretionary dollars for weight loss programs. Consequently, they are spending their weight loss dollars very carefully," according to Research Director John LaRosa.
However, MarketData forecasts a 3.3% annual gain in sales of meal replacements and over-the-counter diet pills for 2014 for the do-it-yourself diet category, or a combined market sales of $3.04 billion this year. The finding that 80% of dieters preferred a self-directed program was the highest ever, according to MarketData, and this was generally attributed to the recession.
These findings were corroborated by another market research group, The NDP Group. According to NDP researchers, the percentage of Americans who are into dieting is at an all-time low at 19 percent, and this is creating serious problems for the $61 billion weight-loss industry.
"The American attitude is shifting about diet," said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, noting that "the percentage of Americans who say they are on a diet has been declining for some time now." He cited several reasons including the preference of Americans for healthier eating rather than dieting.
Despite this decline in the weight loss market, the problem of obesity in America remains. According to the latest figures, over 72 million or one third of the U.S. population are considered clinically obese while one billion people all over the world are over their ideal weight.