Britons forecast to spend £10bn on dietary products

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Weight-obsessed Britons will be spending more than £10bn a year on diet food and drinks by 2006 but their efforts are unlikely to improve their expanding girths.

Weight-obsessed Britons will be spending more than £10bn a year on diet food and drinks by 2006 but their efforts are unlikely to improve their expanding girths.

About 40 per cent of British people will be considered medically overweight within four years, according to a survey released yesterday. It predicted the diet food and drink industry across Europe would by then be worth £61bn.

But nutritionists warned yesterday that despite the huge success of the dietary supplement industry, most people would be better off eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, and taking more exercise.

An analysis by the Datamonitor organisation found that spending on diet products was rising as Europeans become heavier and more aware of their body shape.

The report's author, Andrew Russell, a consumer markets analyst, said the weight gain was fuelled by calorie-rich food and the increasingly sedentary lifestyle in Europe. He said: "Although the average person's body is getting bigger, this is driving increasing interest in maintaining and developing a good physique, even if this interest does not always translate into long-term lifestyle changes.

"Those who find themselves overweight and those who are keen to avoid being in that position are increasingly interested in using exercise and diet to manage their shape."

Britain's share of the European market was predicted to become £10.3bn, up from £9.8bn now. The research found that one-third of Western Europeans were now overweight and by 2006 that would rise to 50 per cent in Germany, Italy and Spain. About 40 per cent of Britons were forecast to be over their ideal body mass index, up from 29 per cent now.

Consumers who had a normal body weight were the most profitable market for food manufacturers because they were most interested in maintaining their shape and had more willpower to carry out their aim.

The overweight were the second most profitable and potentially the most long-standing customers, according to the report. "They will continually seek to make small changes to their lifestyle and diet without ever removing the underlying need to do so, making them potentially life-long customers," it said.

Wendy Doyle, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said the growth in spending on diet products was "mind-boggling".

She said they could be of benefit if they were used rather than having a high-fat lunch, but most people would be better off with natural foods. "Select diet foods have a place in some diets but we can all benefit from having more fruit and vegetables, rather than rely on highly processed foods," she said.

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