With two-thirds of U.S. adults and almost one-third of children and adolescents overweight or obese, a diverse range of consumers are increasingly focused on weight loss and weight maintenance within a broadening context of personal health and lifestyle issues, according to a new report, Weight Management Trends in the U.S., by Packaged Facts. 

The shift toward weight management and healthy habits as priorities at the forefront of consumer consciousness are expected to gain momentum as the nation slips further into a semblance of economic relief from the fiscal ravaging of the recession.

“Industry experts and Packaged Facts agree that healthy eating is a solid measure of consumer confidence,” says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. “As the economy improves, consumers will once again focus on health and wellness priorities.”

Packaged Facts estimates the global weight loss and diet management market – including diet food and drinks, weight loss programs and services, weight loss drugs and natural therapies, and surgical interventions – reached $26 billion in 2009.  Diet food and drinks-consisting of weight loss bars and snacks, drinks, frozen meals, and diet desserts-was the largest category, with $18 billion, or 73%, of total worldwide sales.

Developing foods and beverages that provide satiety, or hunger satisfaction, is projected to be one of the hottest trends in weight management. Such products contain ingredients that enhance feelings of pleasant fullness after eating, helping dieters prevent overeating and/or constant snacking between meals.   And though “minus” formulations of foods and beverages-i.e., low-, no-, or reduced-calorie/fat/carbohydrates/sugar formulations-continue to dominate weight management products, there currently is a subtle shift toward tinkering with formulations to add functional ingredients that can help people lose and maintain weight.  Many of these same functional ingredients are being used in dietary supplements and over-the-counter weight management drugs.

Beyond the toll obesity takes on an individual’s health, it also places a financial burden on the nation’s healthcare system. As a result, obesity has emerged as a political problem that federal, state, and local governments are attempting to legislate away. Perhaps the most ostentatious effort to date has been the Obama Administration’s Let’s Move program that targets the troubling trend of childhood obesity by bringing together several federal agencies to focus on improving nutrition and encouraging exercise.

[Source:  Weight Management Trends in the U.S.  Packaged Facts. 12 Apr. 2010.  Web.  6 May 2010.]