In conjunction with people’s great interest in diet, the diet industry has a rather large market volume. As per 2014 data, the diet industry in the United States only is a US$ 65 billion worth market. The diet industry is composed of weight loss and health centers, weight loss operations, informative books and diet products (food and drinks), the category that perhaps touches the consumers the most.
In Turkey, the number of diet/light products found on shelves has been gradually increasing especially recently. As need and demand increases, new brands keep on appearing and launching diet products and hence grow the market. Some brands have opted for launching diet versions of their current product line. It is now possible to find a light version of almost every product, from the sinful ones like chips or cola to the more innocent ones such as tuna fish, yoghurt, milk and cheese.
Since consuming unhealthy snacks in between meals and craving for sweets are the most important barriers that prevent us from losing or maintaining weight, the number of products that meet such needs has been increasing, too. One example of a quick and easy solution for nibbling needs is snack bars. Keeping up with this trend, Nestlé Nesfit has converted its granola into a whole grain bar. Even though there is no reference of diet on their packaging, brands such as Wasa, Tadımca and m life, that are known for products that seem to be healthier than other snack alternatives in terms of ingredients and keep you from going hungry for a long time, have all launched their varieties of snacks.
As a brand that is set for meeting the need for sweets, Sek Quark is defining itself to be the “good desert”.
Another topic we have come to hear and see lately is the ready-made meal packages with diet alternatives. One of the popular systems of recent times, the ready-made meal packages can either be bought singularly or delivered directly to your home or office with its subscription option. Companies such as Rafinera, Mealbox Fit or MİSA Mutfak prepare their meal menus with preset calorie counts under the supervision of nutritionists. Fit Kutu, which has a slightly different concept, focuses on snacks rather than main meals and prepares packages that are strictly comprised of quick bites. Moreover, they send nutritional advices, motivation cards and recipes to their subscribers monthly. Saf Mutfak delivers 3-4 varieties of nutritious and healthy snacks packed in Saf Snackbox boxes.
Ready-made meal packages delivered to home or office are plentiful in other countries as well. In addition to ready-made meal services, supermarkets offer ready-made diet meals under their own labels and make them available for consumers at a number of points of sale. Low-calorie meals that can only be consumed after heating them in the first place are found at stores such as Waitrose, Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Marks & Spencer’s own brand “Count On Us” comprises diet ready-made meals that are under 400 calories. Tesco offers products that have less than 3% fat and ready-made meals with 30% less fat with respect to equivalents under its “Light Choices” brand.
The controversies surrounding the diet products increase in line with the increase in the number of diet products: Research conducted in America in 2016 reveals that the perception of diet and diet products within the consumers’ mind is changing slowly. It also reveals that the term “diet” has been losing its significance and that most people now think that going on diet and the diet products are unhealthy. A tendency towards “healthy” and “natural” food rather than diet products is observed.
The nutritionists frequently articulate that a product being light does not necessarily imply that it is a low-calorie one. They also underline the fact that one should not eat diet products excessively counting on their dietary factor.
In relation to this shift in perception, brands now adopt an integral approach rather than just highlighting the dietary features of their products in order to reach their consumers. Brands such as Eti Form and Nestlé Nesfit now create content not only about diet but about healthy life and exercise, as well.
Moreover, not only brands but also consumers themselves do create content constantly in this field in order to contribute to heightened awareness. Reviews on new diet/light products, comments on whether their calories are low indeed or not and even whether they should be consumed at all or not are abundant on social media. For that reason, social media, and especially Instagram, have become very important for brands.
We have conducted a research in order to deduce the diet product perception and eating habits regarding weight loss and maintenance in Turkey. Our research comprised of 100 females (62%) and males (38%) who are 18-45 years of age, AB/C1/C2 SES and live in İstanbul.
56% of interviewees have previously watched what they eat in order to lose weight and 57% in order to maintain weight.
21% of the interviewees said that they went on a specific diet or followed a diet list previously. When asked about the types of diet that had been followed, dietary methods that we are familiar with were mentioned such as diets prescribed or supervised by nutritionists or doctors, protein based nutrition, detoxes and simply laying off bread/pasta.
When asked about their thoughts regarding diet/light products, more than half of the interviewees spoke against them. The opinions expressed: They are insipid, they shouldn’t be consumed much, they may sometimes be hazardous, they are not needed if one eats properly and watches what one eats. There were also interviewees that spoke in favor of them saying that they have beneficial ingredients like fibers and grains and it is healthful to consume them in between meals.
37% of the interviewees stated that they have previously consumed diet/light products. The products consumed span a wide range of alternatives. Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt or cheese, biscuits (oat, bran), pop corn, oat bars, snacks such as crackers, corn flakes and oatmeal appear to be indispensable diet products. In addition to these, diet coke, lean meat and ice-cream have also been mentioned. 11% of the interviewees said that they have tried new diet/light products.
6 out of 10 interviewees could name brands that produce diet/light products: The brands that were mentioned the most are Nestlé, Ülker, Eti, Sütaş and Pınar. Other brands that were mentioned are Herbalife, Uno, Sek and Activia.
27% of the interviewees have previously consumed or are consuming diet/light snacks in between meals in order to lose or maintain weight. Eti Form and Nestlé Nesfit were mentioned by specifically indicating brands. In addition to the aforementioned, biscuits, yoghurt, dried nuts/fruits, fruits and corn flakes are among the other products treated as snacks.
The ones who consume drinks in order to lose or maintain weight constitute 19% of the interviewees. Among the drinks mentioned are water, mineral water, blends with ingredients like cinnamon, lemon, ginger or apples, green tea, Coke Zero, and Doğadan Form teas.
18% of the interviewees follow platforms so as to obtain information on weight loss or maintenance. Among these, the most featured ones are nutritionists (especially Canan Karatay), TV, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Opinions regarding blogs, forums and social media accounts that share content in this context are divided into two. Half of the interviewees have negative opinions saying that they find social media unreliable or the available information could be misleading. The ones who are in favor of such platforms say that they are reasonable for the ones who want to benefit from them, the informative videos are good and the recipes and the information on work-out exercises are helpful.
When the systems that prepare and deliver ready-made meal packages aimed at dieting and maintaining weight were explained and questioned about, 44% of the interviewees said that they were in the know of such entities. The ones that came to mind, even though the brands were not recalled in general, are Mealbox, Rafinera and Fit Kutu.
When we asked about their opinion regarding such entities, we observed that opinion was polarized. Negative views were more widespread. Reasons for these negative views were: People did not prefer to buy/order ready-made food, they thought/considered ordering food to be expensive, or they preferred home-made food. Those who expressed positive views said ordering food was practical and that it was convenient especially for the ones who go to work.
When we asked the interviewees who have never used or are not considering to use these (namely 90% of the interviewees) why they would not use them, one of the reasons was their expensive price. The reasons mentioned the most were these products not being perceived to be natural and healthy and that they preferred home-made, natural and healthy food.
When we have a look at the research findings, it is possible to say that the diet and diet product perception in Turkey is parallel with what the research conducted in America revealed. Although the prevalent opinion regarding diet and diet products is that they are unhealthy and unnatural, the diet products are among the most popular ones on the shelves and consumed by the majority of those who watch their weight. We can catch a glimpse of the times when this category, where attitudes and behavior are not consistent with each other, will fall out of seasonality and spread over the whole year...