Diet claims fade as marketing tools

by Keith Nunes
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LAS VEGAS — The words “diet” and “dieting” are appearing less on the packaging of weight control products, said Tom Vierhile, director of product launch analytics for Datamonitor, the London-based research firm.

“Portion control has become something that consumers have really adopted,” he said during the presentation “Losing weight, gaining sales: New developments in weight management foods, drinks and supplements” on Oct. 20 at the SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas.

People are trying to eat in smaller portions instead of going on special diets, Mr. Vierhile said. He cited International Food Information Council survey statistics that show 74% of consumers check for calories on the Nutrition Facts Panel. The word “zero” has become popular in packaging as evidenced in Coke Zero and Vitaminwater Zero.

The 100-calorie concept is still alive and moving into other categories, such as deli meats. The DiGiorno brand has expanded the concept by promoting 200-calorie pizzas, he said. For portion control in food service, restaurants are turning to bite-size eating, such as the slider concept in burgers.

Products with satiety effects show global growth potential, but manufacturers should use caution in their choice of promotional words, Mr. Vierhile said.

“Consumers talk around satiety, not about it,” he said.

Consumers may respond more to messages about how products high in fiber and protein may control hunger and keep them fuller longer. Although yet to become popular in the United States, yogurts with satiety-like claims are doing well in Australia and Spain, he said. A chewing gum product in Japan contains konjac powder that swells in the stomach to reduce hunger.

“I’m not sure if Wrigley is going to be jumping on this any time soon,” Mr. Vierhile said.

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