$71 Billion U.S. Weight Loss Industry Pivots to Survive Pandemic

U.S. weight loss industry researchThe total U.S. weight loss market hit a new peak in 2019, growing to $78 billion. However, that growth came to a halt when the Coronavirus hit in March, shutting the doors of weight loss centers, doctors’ offices, clinics, and other businesses for 8-10 weeks. As a result, the value of the market is forecast to decline by 9% this year.

The Covid-19 crisis has forced many weight loss businesses to accelerate their operations toward the virtual delivery of services. Those that can’t make this pivot will not survive this recession.

The Coronavirus has caused some significant changes in consumer behavior. The traditional “diet season” has been shifted from January-May to the summer and fall. In addition, consumers are stocking up on frozen food they shunned just a few years ago. They are accessing weight loss and exercise programs much more via apps, webinars, websites, live streaming, coaching by phone, and via home workouts.

Things to Know About the U.S. Weight Loss Market Now

  • Market value: Marketdata estimates that the total U.S. weight loss market reached new highs of $78 billion in 2019. However, with shut-downs that began in March, the market is expected to decline 9% in value to $71 billion this year. Some market segments have actually prospered, though.

  • Commercial chains: Revenues of the major commercial weight loss chains (WW, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Medifast, and others) are forecast to dip 2.3% to $3.9 billion in 2020. WW Intl. and Medifast are expected to post the best results, while Jenny Craig may be hardest hit.

  • Meal replacements (shakes, nutrition bars): Meal replacements and OTC diet pills sales combined are forecast to grow by 5.4% this year, to $5.25 billion — with meal replacements growth outpacing diet pills. These products have largely escaped effects of the pandemic due to their price and easy availability at grocery and convenience stores and MLM channels, which remained open during the pandemic.

  • Medical weight loss programs: The value of all medical weight loss programs is forecast to decline 16.3% in 2020 to $7.78 billion. This segment of the weight loss market was hit hardest, due to 8-10 week closures of programs based in hospitals, clinics, and physician offices. Hospitals were scrambling to service Covid-19 patients, not weight loss patients. Weight loss surgeries are forecast to fall by 17%.

  • Prescription weight loss drugs: Sales are forecast to decline 15% in 2020 in the U.S., to $590 million, as medical program caseloads at MD offices, clinics, and hospitals declined.

  • Low-cal frozen dinner entrées: Sales of frozen diet dinners are actually booming. They are forecast to grow by 12% in 2020 to $2.6 billion, as consumers shift to greater usage of convenient and frozen foods. Better packaging and manufacturer product innovations in 2019 have helped significantly.

Where to Learn More

Marketdata's newly published Status Report of the U.S. Weight Loss Market in 2020: Effects of the Pandemic presents a wrap-up of 2019 performance for the U.S. weight loss industry, and a forecast for 2020 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report evaluates all major weight loss market segments including diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs, commercial weight loss chains, OTC meal replacements and diet pills, medical programs, and low-calorie dinner entrees.

It also includes profiles and updated outlooks for WW, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Medifast, Herbalife, Glanbia (SlimFast), Noom, Simply Good Foods (Atkins), HMR Boston, Robard, and Profile by Sanford.

About the Author:  John LaRosa is the President of Marketdata LLC and is the author of 100+ industry and market studies. His research appears in top media outlets including ABC, CNN, Fox, ForbesUSA TodayThe Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and a variety of trade journals. 

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