Food table

Americans are still concerned with weight loss, just not as much as headlines about diet trends would have us think. We know that consumers’ views on dieting and approaches to eating have been in flux for several years. The Hartman Group’s Health + Wellness 2019 report finds that now more consumers than ever are experimenting with their diets. According to the report, fully half of U.S. consumers have tried some type of diet or eating approach in the past year, compared with 44 percent of consumers in 2017.

Yet, despite one in two consumers experimenting with eating approaches, very few consumers identify with a specific plan, and our research uncovers no singular diet or eating approach trending more than others over the past several years. This is because most consumers are not doing them exclusively, and their reasons for healthy eating have changed along with their views about diets.

While still a major health and wellness concern, consumers today are more reluctant to claim weight loss as the sole end goal of health and wellness change, a fact highlighted by the report’s finding that only about 3% of consumers have tried a prepared meals subscription service like Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig. Rather, today weight loss should be one benefit of a lifestyle that promotes feeling better and having more energy during a longer life.

Contemporary diets are personalized and all about balance, wellness and energy. Wellness and energy are shorthand for feeling lighter, better digestion, managing food sensitivities, reducing inflammation and ultimately feeling good and being happy.

What Consumers Want — and Don’t Want

Modern diets are reflective of cleaner processing and cleaner ingredients. Consumers across all health and wellness segments now essentially agree on the basics of a healthy diet — fruits and vegetables, high protein, healthy fats, fresh, less processed foods and limited carbs.

Approximately half or more of consumers, regardless of health and wellness segment, seek to add fiber, protein, vitamin D, calcium, nuts/seeds and whole grains. After a 9-percentage point gain since 2013, those adding protein plateaued in 2017 at 60%.

Consumers continue to avoid markers of processed foods and their key “red flag” ingredients, particularly sugars, sodium and “bad” fats, but HFCS has finally risen above sodium and saturated fat — long the most avoided ingredients. While sodium is still heavily avoided due to its connection to heart health, consumers also see it as an indicator of “more processed” foods.

Staying conversant with dieting trends and consumers’ approaches to modern eating is an imperative for food marketers and product development pros since many of the dieting behaviors embraced by active health and wellness consumers are diffusing into the mainstream.

Understanding Today’s Wellness Market

Lifestyle transcends demographic and cultural boundaries as we see today’s consumers of all generations and backgrounds resonating to wellness and its value. Since 1989, we’ve been at the forefront of helping companies, from emerging startups to established icons, truly understand the broader contexts of how and why consumers live, shop and buy.

For the most up-to-date data, comprehensive insights and strategic implications on consumers’ continuing journey in wellness lifestyles, get the report: Health + Wellness 2019