The rise of the low-carb diet

Monday, 23 September 2019

Every year, more and more searches are made on Google for ‘low-carbohydrate diets’.

It’s one of the key health trends seen in the consumer world in the last year, along with plant-based, high-protein, high-fibre and gluten-free.

‘Healthy eating’ means different things to different people – from removing or restricting something in the diet, to those that add benefits such as more vitamins or contribute to the five-a-day.

Health meals chosen for their restrictive nature, such as the low-carb diet, have contributed significantly more to the growth of the health market from mid-2018 than added-benefit health meals. But what impact does this have on bread and flour sales?

About three-quarters of consumers agree that carbohydrates are a key part of a healthy diet and are a good source of energy. However, 30% are actively trying to eat fewer carbohydrates as
part of their individual health needs.

As this trend gains momentum, carbohydrate volume sales have levelled out at +0.2% over the last year, compared with the retail market growth of +1.2%. In that same period, potatoes have been the winners in the category, gaining +0.9% volume sales, whereas bread has seen declines of -2.6%.

However, some specialist types of bread have been bucking the trend: free-from bread sales have increased 14.6% in volume, and brown bread 85.5%.

In store, the market has seen a move towards carbohydrate alternatives, using vegetables, beans and pulses. While products do not always have low-carb claims on pack, the marketing behind these offerings imply the swap, for example, courgette instead of spaghetti. The market is yet to see a significant range of on-pack ‘low-carb’ claims, but there are a few examples, including two different ‘lower carb’ loaves from Hovis.

This article appeared in Grain Outlook, autumn/winter 2019