U.S. Weight Loss Market Shrinks by 25% in 2020 with Pandemic, but Rebounds in 2021

Group of people at the gym exercising on the xtrainer machinesPart of the weight loss market was hit hard in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession forced the closure of health clubs and many retail weight loss centers.

Patient volumes at hospitals, clinics, and physician offices also plummeted. However, there were bright spots, namely: commercial chains that pivoted to virtual meetings and drop shipping of diet foods, multi-level marketers, booming sales of frozen diet dinners, and shelf stable meal replacements

Much of the decline in 2020 was due to the $20 billion in lost revenue by health clubs and gyms, which were shuttered due to the pandemic. This segment of the market suffered the biggest hit — down 57%.

Top 5 Things to Know About the Weight Loss Industry in 2022

  • Market size: The value of the U.S. weight loss market is estimated to have declined by a historic 25% in 2020, to $58 billion, as a result of closures of weight loss centers and medical programs. However, in 2021 the market recovered nearly all of that, up 24% to $72.6 billion. The market is forecast to grow 3.6% this year, to $75 billion.
  • Meal replacements (shakes, bars) and OTC appetite suppressants’ (diet pills): These products had combined sales of $5.3 billion and are forecast to grow by less than 1% this year, with meal replacements shakes and nutrition bars faring better than retail weight loss supplements/diet pills. These products have largely escaped effects of the pandemic due to their availability at grocery and convenience stores, MLM channels, and online — channels that remained open during the pandemic.
  • Competitors: Revenues of the largest commercial weight loss providers as a group (WW, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Medifast, and others) held up well in 2020, only down by 2.3%. Leaders are shifting to hybrid models that combine virtual/digital and in-person services, thus necessitating more investment in technology. Virtual services are more profitable and those firms relying mainly on brick & mortar weight loss centers face increasing costs and pressures.
  • Medical programs: The value of all medical weight loss programs fell about 16% in 2020 due to the pandemic, to $7.58 billion. Programs by hospitals, clinics, and MD offices were especially hard hit, down 30%. All segments of the medical market will grow in 2022 and recover from depressed 2020 levels, especially bariatric surgeries and prescription obesity drugs.
  • Dieters: Americans gained a lot of weight during the pandemic, and are now looking to shed those pounds. Weight loss providers are returning to a new normal-— a hybrid model of digital/virtual services and in-person service. Those that invest in this technology will fare the best.

UPDATE: For the latest information, please see the article "U.S. Weight Loss Market Partially Recovers from the Pandemic."

New Weight Loss Industry Research

To learn more about this industry, check out Marketdata's new report The U.S. Weight Loss Market: 2022 Status Report & Forecast, which is now available on MarketResearch.com. This report presents a wrap-up of 2020 & 2021 performance for the U.S. weight loss market during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a forecast for 2022 and the current “diet season."

The report covers health clubs, commercial weight loss programs, medical weight loss programs, weight loss (bariatric) surgery, diet drugs, hospital & clinic chains and MD programs, retail meal replacement & appetite suppressants, weight loss apps, diet soft drinks & artificial sweeteners, and frozen diet dinners and low-calorie foods. 

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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