Weight management trends in transition
February 28, 2012
by Allison Gibeson
Portion control and reduced-calorie options have been the focus of the weight management market during recent years but now several experts are suggesting it is time to move beyond these approaches.
“I think consumers are demanding more after they have failed and failed and spent tens of billions of dollars on this process,” said Michael Snyder, creator of Fullbar L.L.C., a weight loss system that features snack bars to promote satiety. “They realize they need to ask more from the products and processes. What they have also realized is they don’t want more of the same. There is so much of the same in the diet industry — the same messages, the same demands, the same horrors. Consumers are pretty much fed up with it.”
So what will be effective and meet consumer needs? Creating a sense of fullness was the concept driving Dr. Snyder in the creation of Fullbar products. He said feeling full is actually a response of the brain and not the stomach, and as such it is beneficial to increase the proteins and chemicals that trigger the sense of fullness in the brain. He said Fullbar products use Slendesta, an ingredient manufactured by Kemin Industries, Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, to enhance cholecystokinin, a trigger for feeling full. He said the products may be consumed before or after meals to limit hunger or at times when one is tempted to snack impulsively. He also said Slendesta is expensive to make as the protein it is derived from is only found in potatoes grown at high altitudes.
Overall, Dr. Snyder said it is important to engage in the emotional/behavioral, physi-ological and mechanical as-pects of losing weight and feeling full. He said his products were designed with the idea that people aren’t going to change their lives dramatically, and there is a need to develop practical and reasonable ways to limit hunger and increase activity.
“What I’m really interested in is engaging people to understand how their physi-ology works and putting that together to be reasonable for reasonable weight loss and control,” Dr. Snyder said.
Beyond fullness, some experts are suggesting taking a deeper look at metabolism for weight loss.
“For a significant portion of the population, traditional approaches to dieting don’t work,” said Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager of nutrition for National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J. “People can lose weight, but keeping it off is the far more serious problem. It may be that we’re focusing on the wrong target. We’ve been pretending that calories are calories, when scientific studies are proving that this is not true. Yes, calories count, but some types of foods — like resistant starch — help by focusing on the underlying metabolic mechanisms. We need to teach people to eat better and to choose the foods that will satisfy them and help their bodies work the way they were supposed to.”
National Starch offers Hi-maize resistant starch, which Ms. Witwer said improves satiety and shifts the metabolism away from hunger, fat deposition and high insulin levels. For many, weight is often a symptom of metabolic imbalances that have not been effectively addressed, she said, and insulin resistance is the beginning of the loss of wellness, and may lead to weight gain. Ms. Witwer also said there is evidence that including Hi-maize in a person’s diet may improve blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity without weight loss — dealing with the root of the metabolism issue.
“Studies have shown that lowering insulin resistance can actually lead to easier weight loss — so that by attacking the metabolism (insulin sensitivity/resistance) issue, we can give assistance to the goal of weight management,” Ms. Witwer said.
She said resistant starch is used in products such as pasta, bread and crackers as a replacement for flour.
Keeping it simple
With these ideas in mind, experts also agree that keeping the products and message simple is important.
“The more simple you make the message, the more attractive your product offering is going to be … as long as a manufacturer is explaining in very clear, everyday language, ‘Here’s what’s in it, here’s what it’s going to do, and here’s the estimated time you should see the benefits of these products,’ those are the products that are going to pull out ahead of the crowd,” said Patrick Morris, communications manager with Fortitech, Inc., Schenectady, N.Y.
Keeping the message simple may be difficult when health influencers and the food industry are presenting conflicting messages, Ms. Witwer said. She has been looking at these conflicting messages, especially at how health influencers are telling consumers not to eat processed carbohydrates.
“Within the food industry, we have an opportunity to make processed carbohydrates better-for-you in ways that will help people accomplish their nutritional goals that go beyond indulgence, fiber or whole grains,” Ms. Witwer said.
Mr. Morris said products that promise to increase metabolism or help in burning fat will do well on the market. Consumers don’t necessarily understand what the word “satiety” means, but talking about fullness and hunger control in simpler terms resonates with consumers, he added.
He also said conjugated linoleic acid seems to be coming to the forefront in weight management as a fat-burning mechanism. Other important metabolism ingredients include caffeine, green tea, capsaicin, B-vitamins and yerba mate. Consumers may be looking for the benefits of ingredients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they understand the process of how the ingredients work.
“We don’t think consumers are that well educated about these ingredients, and it’s probably up to the manufacturer,” Mr. Morris said. “If they want their product to sell, they are probably going to have to do some type of messaging, communication campaign — something to make their potential customers understand why that product is going to work for them.”
Making weight management easy
Cathy Arnold, formulations supervisor with Fortitech, said incorporating effec-tive quantities of weight management ingredients may be challenging, especially when it comes to maintaining taste.
Mr. Morris said as more of the science behind C.L.A. and whey protein is discovered and the mainstream media continues to cover the ingredients, they are going to become even more popular.
He also emphasized the necessity for claims to have efficacy.
“I think what manufacturers have to be careful about is whatever claims they are making about their products, they need to deliver them,” Mr. Morris said. “Any benefit needs to be quickly felt or seen or consumers are going to become skeptical.”
Overall, Ms. Witwer said consumers want weight management to be easy and obtainable in ways that fit into their lifestyles. They don’t want it to be complicated or to face constant hunger and have to count and keep track of everything.
Mr. Morris agreed, saying it’s going to be most beneficial to a manufacturer to make a product that is convenient, easy to include in a daily regimen and portable.
The difficulty in launching products comes in the fact the weight management market has so many approaches and ingredients that it is difficult to break through the clutter. Consumers often don’t know what to do, and they can’t often figure it out based on the conflicting messages they are seeing, Ms. Witwer said.
“How do you communicate you have a real benefit in the space where there is a lot of stuff being discussed that may not be beneficial?” she said.
The experts agree mainstream media is a large influencer in consumer understanding of the weight management market. Ms. Witwer said having Health and Prevention magazines cover resistant starch has been beneficial to spreading the word.
“People are getting more efficient and effective with their time, energy and money,” Dr. Snyder said. “People are smarter and don’t believe everything they are hearing, and they really want to see results.”