Obesity has reached crisis levels in the United States. Almost 70% of adults and almost 32% of school-age children and adolescents are either overweight or obese, according to the latest government statistics. Between 1988 and 2008, the prevalence of obesity increased by 48% among adults and more than 72% among children and teenagers. Moreover, according to Simmons panel data from Experian Marketing Services, almost 39% of all U.S. adults, representing 87.8 million consumers, currently are watching their diet to either lose or maintain their weight.
The causes of the increased prevalence of being overweight and obese are interconnected and complex. They include environment, psychological, cultural and socioeconomic factors as well as overeating, lack of exercise, slow metabolism, and genetic makeup. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls American society “obesogenic” because it is characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, unhealthy foods, and a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, a growing spate of articles, books, and even films has charged that in its quest for profits, the food and beverage industry—and particularly the fast-food industry—is partly to blame for the obesity epidemic because marketers deliberately create and market foods that are nutritionally unsound and even “addictive.” Due to obesity’s scope as a national problem, it has also become a political problem, as federal, state, and local governments try to new legislation, guidelines, and initiatives to help wrestle this health crisis under control.
For marketers, the opportunity to help provide better responses to the nation’s obesity epidemic is expanding. At the same time, as the battle of the bulge continues, the arsenal consumers use is changing. Commercial weight management programs such as Curves, eDiets, Jenny Craig, Healthy Wage, Medifast, Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers are expected to re-gain steam by 2015 as marketers offer targeted new programs.
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