Livestock producers have benefited from strong demand in 2004, lifting low beef and pork market prices to record levels. The NPD Group reports that, at any given time about 4% of the population, about 10 million Americans, is on a low-carb/high-protein diet.
Despite all of the attention on low-carbs in this country, the NPD Group's new Report on Carbohydrate Consumption Patterns finds Americans still have a very healthy appetite for carbs. Virtually none of the 11,000 people studied were cutting carbs to the degree that low-carb diets recommend. In fact, among people who say they are on low-carb diets, only one out of four is actually significantly cutting carbs.
"Low-carb diets are a fad, just like the low-fat craze of the late 80's and 90's, the question is how long will it last," says Harry Balzer, vice president of The NPD Group. "In the meantime, every manufacturer will put out their version of low-carb products and Americans will try them because that's what we do, we like to try new things. People still want to lose weight by eating, but getting people to change their behavior is very difficult to do," adds Balzer.
People predicted to continue controlling carbs after holidays
Recent reports predicting the end of the low-carbohydrate "craze" seem to be mimicking reports of the end of the Internet after the dot-com crash in 2000, according to representatives of Atkins Nutritionals, Inc (ANI). "It's hard to remember, but there was a time when the experts were forecasting the end of Google, Amazon and Yahoo," says Colette Heimowitz, vice president of education and research, Atkins Health & Medical Information Services. "And it's just as difficult to understand why supposed experts seem compelled to label Atkins as a fad diet."
Based on data from FRC and Opinion Dynamics, as of November 2004, 24% of adults in the United States were controlling carbs, with 82% of this population purchasing low-carb products. The research also showed that even the lapsed carb-controllers (22% of the population) still buy low-carb products, with 62% of them indicating that they purchase products. "We identified a strong intent for this lifestyle during our research," explains Larry Shiman, vice president, Opinion Dynamics.
"I would not be surprised if people come back to controlling carbs in January, after the holidays," Shiman adds. Atkins projects that 11 or 12% of Americans will be following a controlled-carb approach in the first quarter of 2005. This is up from the current 8% measured in November.
Atkins is anticipating a surge in sales from the fourth quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2005 to coincide with diet season trends. In a story this month in the New York Times, the ACNielsen company's LabelTrends report showed sales of products marketed as low carb grew 6% in a 13-week period ending September 25. The low-carb category continues to grow, even though the growth projections for 2005 do not mirror the double- and triple-digit growth rates seen in the first quarter of 2004. Atkins says "these market fluctuations are indicative of an emerging market seeking level ground as it matures, and hardly communicate the demise of the low-carb category."