As US Waistlines Grow, So Does This $88B Market
Given the growth in this area, an updated customer segmentation template for weight management is critical for brands in the weight loss and weight management markets.
Weight loss and weight management is a large market, estimated at $81 billion for the US weight loss market in 2021, out of $221 billion worldwide. Another organization places the US market at $88 billion. And it’s a fast-growing market with healthy rates, depending on the source between 4% to 7%.
The overweight population in the US has been growing for decades, with increased growth during COVID lockdowns. Well before the pandemic in 2010, as many as 64% of US adults were estimated as overweight or obese. More recent December 2020 estimates place 73% of US adults as obese, up nearly 10%.
Brands that are participating in this market range from exercise equipment providers like Peloton to top weight loss programs, including noom, NutriSystem, diettogo, WW (weight watchers), optavia and bistro MD. Some of these programs include meals delivered to the home, while others like Noom focus on coaching, mindset and psychology.
Approach to a Weight Management Customer Segmentation Template
This example of a weight management customer segmentation template was developed for a food client focused on repositioning existing products and also offering new products to meet customer’s weight management and weight loss goals.
The first step in the customer segmentation template process was to conduct qualitative research among consumers. The focus was on understanding the underlying motivations, behaviors and unmet needs around weight management. The team used a combination of focus groups and in-depth interviews among a range of consumers to get these insights.
From this qualitative research, the team developed a hypothesized customer segmentation template with five segments and three segmenting dimensions.
The second major step was a large quantitative, nationally-representative research study among over 2,000 consumers aged 25-69. The team made the choice to field the research in October, a time when weight management interest among consumers is more moderate, unlike January when consumer interest in weight management often peaks with New Year’s Resolutions.
Quantitative analytics revealed four primary dimensions that segmented consumers on their motivations around weight management:
- Drivers of Weight Management (e.g., appearance, esteem, health, energy/activity)
- Ease of Weight Management (e.g., very difficult, moderate, easy)
- Weight Management Style (e.g., radical/yo-yo, lifestyle changes)
- Importance of Weight Management (high to low)
Within the nationally representative sample, nearly 2/3rds of US adult consumers were weight concerned, while 37% were not weight concerned. Being weight concerned did not necessarily associate with being overweight, as around 19% of consumers who are not concerned were actually overweight. It’s likely that even more consumers may qualify as weight concerned today given the weight gain trends in the US population, and the segment sizes have likely changed, with new segments emerging.
The quantitative research found four primary segments of weight concerned consumers:
- “Active Weight Managers” – 18% of consumers
- “Weight Challenged” – 17% of consumers
- “Informed Healthy Dieters”- 12% of consumers
- “Image Driven Dieters”- 15% of consumers
Example Outputs from a Weight Management Customer Segmentation Template
An important deliverable from the weight management customer segmentation template was profiles of the customer segments. Six example profile snapshots are provided below, starting with the weight concerned customer segments, followed by the segments who are not weight concerned.
Weight Concerned Customer Segment: A Snapshot of Active Weight Managers
The Active Weight Managers are focused on preventing weight gain and have a relatively low amount of weight they’d like to lose. They feel in control of weight management, and have successfully implemented a lifestyle they can live with and are confident in the weight management part of their life.
They prefer an individualized weight management approach, including frequent exercise, living a healthy lifestyle and have made long-term changes.
Demographically, they have a higher income skew, and at the time of the study only about 44% of them qualified from calculated BMI (weight and height) as overweight or obese. On average, they’d like to lose 14 pounds.
Weight Concerned Customer Segment: A Snapshot of Image Driven Dieters
Image Driven Dieters are primarily motivated by how they look and have discovered that weight has become more of an issue for them in recent years. Appearance is their main motivator for weight loss, not health. While in the past, they’ve been able to lose weight whenever they needed to, they are finding weight loss more difficult now and are beginning to become frustrated.
Their approach is to try radical and temporary diet changes to promote weight loss. They also like structured programs and support (e.g., such as meal plans) and are confused about portion control. They want to lose weight and also prevent weight gain.
Demographically, they tend to be younger: around 65% of them are ages 25-44. Around 73% qualify as overweight or obese, and on average they’d like to lose 27 pounds.
Weight Concerned Customer Segment: A Profile of Weight Challenged
These consumers have the highest weight loss goal of any segment. Weight loss is a very important issue that they’ve faced for years. They tend to feel discouraged, even to the point of trying less as they haven’t yet found success. They are motivated by appearance, health and lifestyle reasons.
When they do try weight management approaches, they tend to try new, radical, temporary diet changes to drive rapid results. They are also confused about portion control.
Demographically, they are almost 90% female, with an average age of 43. Their weight loss goal is on average 66 pounds, and they are more likely to have an underlying health condition (different from weight management).
Weight Concerned Customer Segment: A Profile of Informed Healthy Dieters
Informed Healthy Dieters are focused on weight management as an important, long-term issue in their lives. They are interested in learning about approaches to help achieve their weight management goals and optimistic to find an approach that will work. They are strongly motivated by health, lifestyle and appearance reasons and are struggling somewhat to lose weight. Their goal is to lose weight and to keep it off.
The approach these consumers take is making lifestyle changes and avoiding radical diets. They prefer support and structured programs and seek information on weight management from other people. They tend to be more informed and also follow the latest information and trends. They are one of the first to try new, non-fad approaches to weight management when they are popularized.
Demographically, they skew better educated and higher income. Around 73% qualified as overweight or obese and their weight loss goal was 33 pounds.
We also understood the non-weight concerned consumer segments.
NOT Weight Concerned Customer Segment: A Profile of Other Priorities
The Other Priorities consumers are the very least involved with weight management. It is not an issue for them. They are not emotionally engaged with the topic of weight management, and as such are not motivated by appearance or lifestyle issues in this area. Other areas of their life are much more important for them, and they have some of the highest hours of exercise of all the groups.
Demographically, they are more likely to be male, younger (ages 25-44) and an average BMI.
NOT Weight Concerned Customer Segment: A Profile of Less Active
The Less Active are not focused on losing or maintaining weight at this time. They acknowledge that losing weight is a struggle, and they have some weight management needs but need to focus on other things.
They feel a lack of energy at their current weight. When they do decide to act on weight management, their preference is for slow weight loss and small changes. They dislike support groups and structure and are very price sensitive when it comes to foods to support weight management goals.
Demographically, they skew lower income, more likely to have a health condition (separate from weight management), older and have around 38 pounds to lose.
Weight Management Customer Segmentation Template in Context of Overall Life Priorities
Looking at the first four segments, we also understood how weight management interacted with other topics such as friend relationships. For example, Informed Healthy Dieters and Active Weight Managers prioritize self-care lifestyle activities such as eating healthy and exercising slightly ahead of friendships and relationships with non-family significant others. They also prioritize eating healthly and exercising ahead of maintaining and losing weight.
This is very different from the Weight Challenged, who rank losing weight as a top three priority, behind family relationships and relationships with significant others. Image Driven Dieters prioritize family and friend relationships and adequate sleep ahead of maintaining weight. In addition, Image Driven Dieters prioritize making money ahead of maintaining weight.
Applications of Weight Management Customer Segmentation Template
The weight management customer segmentation template was applied to the business for positioning existing products and for new product development.
For one of the large existing breakfast food products, the positioning recommendations were to better emphasize the link between this product’s lasting satiety and weight management. Specifically, the team agreed to emphasize the positive link between a healthy and satisfying breakfast and weight loss goals and the energy/activity benefits from losing and maintaining weight. These positioning recommendations were focused on the needs of the Active Weight Managers.
For new product development, several opportunities were identified to better address weight-concerned customers’ needs: (1) increasing protein content (2) increasing fiber content in lower-fiber products to deliver more satiety. New product pipeline efforts were focused on Image Driven Dieters and Weight Challenged.
Another application for the weight management customer segmentation template was with retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Albertson’s, Safeway, Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods and Stop and Shop. The client team shared how these retailers were perceived for weight management food choices compared with competition, as well as a custom analysis of the retailer’s shoppers by weight management segment.
With the continued growth and development in the weight management market, we’d expect changes, such as new customer segments emerging and some of the segments described above splitting into new segments or declining. An updated customer segmentation template will provide clarity for growth strategy, positioning, innovation and new products and category captaincy.