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Heightened public awareness of obesity translated into strong sales increases in “light, lean and less-of” product categories in 2002, according to the newest issue of GMA/IRI Times & Trends. After a few years of sales declines in these categories, products that help consumers manage their weight, more so than products with reduced-fat content, have driven significant growth in sales.

The categories of products experiencing sales growth included reduced-calorie versions of ready-to-eat meals, snacks, desserts, carbonated beverages and beer.

Also directly attributable to the increasing public awareness of health and nutrition are sales growth of nutritional/energy/health bars, which have risen 38 percent over past five years. With more than one-third of Americans regularly skipping meals, nutritious innovations in meal-replacement have driven sales upward, with the snack bar category increasing 12.9 percent per year.

In a related story, a new national survey from the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition (ACFN) reveals that most Americans don't know that simple changes in their lifestyles can help them prevent weight gain.

Two in five respondents (40 percent) incorrectly believe that in order to prevent weight gain, an average person should reduce daily caloric intake by 500 calories or more. But according to a recent study published in Science magazine, just 100 calories fewer per day may be all it takes to avoid weight gain. Only seven percent of respondents agreed that eliminating 100 calories would prevent weight gain.

Most consumers also overestimate what they need to do to expend more energy or to consume fewer calories - another potential obstacle to successfully addressing weight control.
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