Americans relied upon brand-name diets for years, jumping from Jenny Craig to Lean Cuisine to Weight Watchers in an effort to help lose weight. The days of Americans leaning on promises of shredding fat through low-calorie, low-fat diet programs seems to be over, however, according to industry analysts and nutritionists.
"Dieting is not a fashionable word these days," says Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts University, in an excellent NPR piece on the subject. "[Consumers] equate the word diet with deprivation, and they know deprivation doesn't work."
The piece goes on to cite a Mintel report noting that few people purchase diet products anymore: in a survey of 2,000 people contacted in October 2015, nearly 94% of respondents no longer identify as a "dieter." Instead, these consumers focus on eating "healthy" foods in order to remain, well, healthy.
The change in consumer mindset doesn't stop there, however. About 77% of those surveyed noted that diet products were not as healthy as claimed, and an additional 61% found that most diets are actually not healthy. These numbers don't simply point to people finding healthier ways to eat; rather, they are becoming disillusioned with the "diet" industry in general.
While this seems like a recipe for disaster for the frozen food industry, many of these brands are already adapting to the changing consumer.
Many companies in the sector are putting more emphasis on products being gluten-free, sugar-free, natural and non-GMO rather than being formulated to aid weight loss, including Lean Cuisine launching a line of certified organic frozen meals. In fact, according to Technavio, organic and natural foods innovations are expected to drive growth of the global frozen food market until 2019. The frozen fruits and vegetables segment will witness dynamic growth because of changing consumer preferences, year-round availability of different fruits and vegetables, convenience, and the development of innovative freezing technologies.
The death of diet presents an interesting opportunity for frozen food industry marketers to pivot their brand strategy. By focusing on healthful foods, these brands can capitalize on non-GMO, sugar-free, gluten-free, natural and a bevy of other emerging healthy marketing angles to ensure the future growth of their brands.