The NPD Group Reports on Low-Carb's Impact on America's Diet

NPD's New Study Finds Actual Carb Consumption is Higher Than Expected

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, April 5, 2004 - Despite all of the attention on low-carbs in this country, The NPD Group's new Report on Carbohydrate Consumption Patterns finds Americans still have a very healthy appetite for carbs. Virtually none of the 11,000 people we studied were cutting carbs to the degree that low-carb diets recommend. In fact, among people who say they are on low-carb diets, only one out of four is actually significantly cutting carbs.

The NPD Group's latest study tracked the eating patterns of 11,000 adults. Only a small fraction of the population actually followed a lower-carb diet. NPD found that the adults who are cutting carbs are still eating an average of 128 refined carbs* a day. For men the average is 145 refined grams and for women it's 109 grams. That's considerably higher than the 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day some low-carb diets recommend for weight loss, although still lower than the overall average of 210 grams of refined carbs a day for all adults.

"Everybody in the food industry has the potential to be positively or negatively impacted by this low-carb phenomenon. This report sheds some light on how big of an impact the low-carb craze is going to have on certain businesses and products in the food industry," said Anne Mixen, the author of NPD's Carbohydrate Consumption Patterns Study. "There aren't any studies out there that look at what people are really adding to and cutting from their diet and how many carbs they are actually consuming," said Mixen.

Who's Cutting Carbs
The NPD Group reports that, at any given time, about four percent of the population is on a low-carb/high-protein diet. That translates to about 10 million Americans.

Some highlights of the report include:

  • The middle-aged are the largest group trying to eliminate their middle by cutting carbs. The majority of people who claim to be on a low-carb diet are between the ages of 35-64.
  • Among those adults really reducing carb intake, forty-percent tell NPD they exercise at least three times a week. This same group is almost 30-percent more likely to be obese.
  • People who are eating lower carbs report health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol at above average rates.
  • Adults at the other end of the spectrum, who regularly eat a high-carb diet, are most likely to be an optimal weight or underweight.

"Low-carb diets are a fad, just like the low-fat craze of the late 80's and 90's, the question is how long will it last," said Harry Balzer, vice president of The NPD Group. "In the meantime, every manufacturer will put out their version of low-carb products and Americans will try them because that's what we do, we like to try new things. People still want to lose weight by eating, but getting people to change their behavior is very difficult to do," said Balzer.

The NPD Group's Report on Carbohydrate Consumption Patterns
This report analyzed consumption behavior of 11,000 people from data collected 2001-2003, and examined what they ate on a regular basis. This report combines data from several of NPD's databases, including:
National Eating Trends (NET) - comprehensive database that measures what about 5000 people are eating at home and away-from-home. The data is collected via paper diaries and has been continuously collected in the same way since 1980. The sample is geographically and demographically reflective of the U.S. Census.
NET Nutrient Intake Database - merges frequency from the NET data with portion size and nutrient composition information from the USDA's CSFII and Nutrient Database.

*Refined Carbohydrates=total carbs minus dietary fiber.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
Since 1967, The NPD Group has provided reliable and comprehensive sales and marketing information for a wide range of industries. NPD provides critical knowledge on what is selling, where, to whom and why. Today more than 1,300 manufacturers and retailers rely on NPD to help them better understand their customers, product categories, distribution channels and competition. Information from The NPD Group is available for the following major vertical sectors: apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, cellular, consumer electronics, food and beverage, foodservice, footwear, home improvement, housewares, imaging, information technology, music, software, travel, toys and video games.

NPD Foodworld®, a division of The NPD Group, is the leading provider of food consumption patterns at restaurants and at home. NPD provides sales and marketing information for manufacturers, operators and retailers in the food, beverage and foodservice industries. Only NPD Foodworld provides a complete picture of what Americans are really eating - both at home and in restaurants. Today more than 90-percent of the nation's leading food and beverage manufacturers and restaurant operators rely on NPD Foodworld.

For more information:
Cristina Hilsenrath, 516-625-2443 Dora Radwick, 516-625-6190