Status of the Weight Management Industry

I read an interesting article recently about ‘The Future of the Weight Management Industry’ (ref1). My curiosity was aroused not so much by the huge numbers quoted for those overweight/obese. Rather, I was struck by the key conclusion which really should be more widely communicated.


This message is that ultimately weight management pills and potions may be largely ineffective without simultaneously making other healthy lifestyle choices.

In fact the study authors commented:

“Despite forecasted growth, one might expect the weight management market to be much larger given that obesity is such a widespread and serious health condition. Yet weight management accounts for only 7% of the US$205 billion global consumer health market. This translates into a 2013 retail sales value of US$14 billion”

Key Statistics

Before we look at what is limiting the weight management market growth, let’s have a quick look at some key statistics:

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 1.4 billion overweight and obese adults 20 years or older. 
  • The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 12% of children aged 2 to 5 and 18% aged 6 to 11 are obese or overweight
  • The prevalence of obesity is growing in emerging countries, once thought to be an issue focused in developed countries. By 2018, more than 3 out of 4 people aged 15 and older are projected to be overweight or obese in Kuwait, Venezuela, and Mexico.
  • WHO claim that being overweight or obese is directly responsible for 2.8 million deaths per year. I suggest this is a contentious claim: correlation does not conform causation, especially without proven data to support the claim)

As previously mentioned, despite the large US$205 billion value of the global consumer health market, the weight management share is only 7%. A paltry US$14 billion!

How come? What are the limiting factors and the lessons?

Factors Limiting Weight Management Growth

The key reasons relate to:

  1. A general preference for 'natural' weight loss techniques (especially diet and exercise)
  2. Loss of consumer confidence in weight loss supplements
  3. Prescription obesity medicines. 

1. Natural weight loss techniques

Despite the desperation of many to lose weight, and take short cuts where possible, (think starvation diets, bariatric / gastric band surgery), the majority of people still seem to be quite conservative in choosing more natural weight loss techniques, These include: “Better For You” foods and beverages such as reduced fat or sugar products. Expenditure on these is up 4% and 12%, respectively, since 2008.  Fresh food consumption has also grown 13% by volume. 

Regarding sports nutrition sales have posted 67% gains since 2008.  Also, retail value sales of sportswear have increased 8% worldwide, including 33% in Latin America and 32% in Asia Pacific. 

2. Loss of consumer confidence in weight loss supplements

This loss in confidence has resulted from a series of high profile cases describing serious side effects after taking certain weight loss supplements.  One of the most notorious cases in 2013 involved the “fat burner” OxyElite Pro by USPlabs, which was linked to 48 cases of liver damage, several of which required liver transplants, and one death.  A number of weight loss supplements have also been identified as containing banned substances.

Please note: the point being made here is NOT that ALL weight loss supplements are BAD. Just that some poor quality weight loss supplements may lead to potential health risks.

3. Prescription obesity medicines. 

Yet another challenge for the weight management industry is the recent development in prescription obesity medicines.  For example, Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate ER) by Vivus Inc and Belviq (lorcaserin) by Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. have increased in popularity by cutting down on undesired side effects. They are expected to gain considerable traction in the near future, and further cut into the more ‘natural’ weight management customer base. Of course, time will tell….these are still very new and unproven


I am glad that the weight management industry is not as ‘large’ as one may expect. It suggests that many are still cautious and conservative in choosing more natural weight loss techniques over more questionable, less proven, ‘quick fix’ options.

As Ron White says: “You can't fix stupid.”

This is very much in keeping with our philosophy at Xtend-Life: We need to focus on lifestyle, especially dietary and exercise choices as key weight control tools, and especially how such choices affect us physiologically, biologically and emotionally.



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