Obesity is a notable health issue in North Africa and the Middle East (AME). Nearly 60% of men and 65% of women are heavy in Middle East and North Africa according to a 2014 report which was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In fact, half of the AME respondents in a recent Nielsen global survey said they consider themselves overweight.
The good news, however, is that consumers in the region say they’re ready to make changes and take charge of their health: 52 of the respondents from Africa / Middle East (AME) say they are actively trying to lose weight.
So as they embark on their efforts, how do they plan to achieve their goals?
The majority of respondents in AME say they will rely on the most tried-and-true methods to lose weight: diet and exercise. Three-quarters of respondents (69%) who are trying to lose weight plan to exercise, and almost as many (68%) plan to change their diet. Comparatively, much fewer respondents say they will use other methods to shed unwanted pounds: 11% say they take diet pill/bars/shakes, 8% use medicine prescribed by their doctor and 8% use methods not covered in the survey.
While there is no doubt that consumers in the AME region are conscious of their weight and health, consumers often fail to follow through on their planned efforts to get in shape and stay healthy. In fact, survey results show that consumers in the region plan to indulge more than the global average in several notable categories: chocolate candy (19% vs. 9% globally), ice cream (18% vs. 9%) and salty snacks (18% vs. 9%).
AME consumers are looking for every support they can get especially from health conscious food. Beneficial ingredients are particularly important to AME respondents, with foods that are high in protein (43%) and fortified with calcium (44%), vitamin (43%) and minerals (40%) considered very important – all above the global average.
Consumers’ health awareness appears to be shifting in the right direction, which is a great opportunity for retailers and food manufacturers that can seize the growing opportunity. While many consumers are aware and making health-conscious changes, however, there is still a long way to go toward broader understanding, particularly as global obesity rates remain particularly high.