The popularity of low carb diets peaked with the Atkins diet in 2004, but since then other diets have taken centre stage, including the protein-based Dukan diet, which focuses on several dietary ‘phases’, and the 5:2 diet, which advocates extreme calorie restriction two days a week.
Although low carb food and drink launches declined as the Atkins diet fell in popularity, Mintel says low carb diets are resurging in Europe, where new products with low carb claims increased by 95% from 2008 to 2013.
“The Atkins diet did manage to make consumers a lot more ‘carb conscious’ and aware of the quantity and quality of carbohydrates they consume and this underlying level of consciousness has been retained by some consumers,” said Mintel food science analyst Laura Jones.
The most popular ‘low carb’ launches were in categories traditionally associated with high carbohydrate products, such as pasta, which accounted for 10% of new low carb products in 2013, baking ingredients (10%), bread (9%), and bars (8%).
“Low carb products still occupy a relative niche position in the market and although they will never appeal to all consumers, the recent launches of low carb products in Europe are attempting to widen their appeal,” said Jones.
Meanwhile, a growing body of research backs the idea that lower carbohydrate diets may be beneficial to health. One recent study, based on data from the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study, suggested that lower carbohydrate diets may protect against type 2 diabetes.
What about satiety?
Jones added that many low carb products also highlight high protein content, in order to position them as satiating, considering that ‘low carb’ is often associated with being less filling. Indeed, the number of new product launches carrying both a low carb and a high protein claim in Europe grew by 57% from 2008 to 2013, Mintel says.
Top European countries for low carb launches are France – which accounted for 17% of new products in 2013 – Germany and Spain, with a 15% share each.
High protein claims alone have also surged in Europe in the past five years, more than tripling during the period.
“In particular, it seems growth has been driven by snacks, yogurt and prepared meals,” said Jones. “This year, in Europe, of total new product introductions making a protein claim, snacks accounted for 24%, dairy 20% and processed fish, meat and egg products 15%.”
High protein dairy may hold particular potential, Mintel says.