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Meal Replacements Are A Popular $3+ Billion Dieting Option in The U.S.

Shakes & Nutrition Bars Used By Many Diet Companies

John LaRosa, Research Director
John LaRosa, Research Director

Meal replacements are an integral component of most weight loss programs."

March 29, 2021

Marketdata LLC, a Tampa, FL market research firm that has tracked the weight loss market since 1989, recently published an update of its bestselling report: The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market, March 2021. This 438-page market research study examines, among other segments, the meal replacements market.

“Part of the weight loss market was hit hard in 2020. Customer volumes at medical weight loss programs based in hospitals, franchises and regional chains, and physician offices plummeted. However, there were bright spots, one of which was meal replacements and multi-level marketing firms (MLMs).”, according to John LaRosa, Research Director.

Meal replacements are things like shakes made from special protein powders, and nutrition bars. However, they can also include things like teas and soups and puddings sold by diet companies and are used to substitute for a “normal food” breakfast and lunch. They usually replace two meals per day, with the dieter eating a normal food dinner.

Meal replacements have been a very popular weight loss option for decades, due to the following:

* They are easily obtained from local retailers, and MLMs, as part of a do-it-yourself weight loss program.

* They are inexpensive, shelf stable, and convenient (portable).

* They are safe, with no side effects when used as directed.

* They are easily private labeled and branded by commercial and medical weight loss programs and physicians.

Meal replacements and retail appetite suppressants (diet pills) sales held up well in 2020. They have largely escaped effects of the pandemic. MLM and internet/mail order channels remained open during the pandemic. Of the estimated 112 million U.S. dieters, 84% are DIYers that do not sign up for a structured commercial or medical weight loss program. Meal replacements fit easily into such a regimen. You don’t have to go to a weight loss center or clinic, no prescription or authorization is needed. One of the most well-known retail meal replacement brands over the years has been Slim-Fast.

Producers have actually seen COVID-19 send a whole new slew of consumers to the category: not just busy tech personnel and businesspeople but moms, active seniors, and even healthcare pros. They’ve witnessed huge spikes in sales during the periods when stay-at-home orders have been in effect.

Meal replacements accounted for $3.0 billion and retail diet pills accounted for $2.08 billion in sales during 2020. Marketdata, in its report, estimates that U.S. meal replacements sales increased by a strong 10.4% in 2020, while retail diet pill sales fell by 6.9%. 

Multi-level marketing firms almost exclusively use meal replacement shakes and bars as the core of their weight loss programs, and these companies can generate huge sales. For example, Medifast had 2020 revenues of $934 million, BeachBody had sales of $1 billion (incl. some from fitness services), Herbalife had North American weight loss sales estimated at $821 million last year, Slim-Fast - $275 million, Isagenix - $206  million, Shaklee - $231 million, AMWAY - $122 million, and Nu-Skin - $64 million. That’s more than $3.5 billion just for 8 companies.

Herbalife sales of meal replacements in North America were up 29% last year and Medifast sales increased by 31%. 

Marketdata estimates that there are about two dozen MLMs selling weight loss products in the United States.

Marketdata analysts expect sales of meal replacements to grow 6.6% in 2021, to a value of $3.19 billion. The forecast is for sales to grow 6.8% annually, on average, through 2025, to $4.06 billion. The long-term annual growth rate for meal replacement sales from 2005 – 2019 was 9.5%.

About The Report

The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market, published in March 2021, is a 438-page market research analysis of all 12 segments of the U.S. weight loss market.  A Table of Contents and description are available by email and at the firm’s website: Report price: $2,195, but is also sold by single chapters. A 46-page Overview is available for $99. Contact: Marketdata LLC, 7210 Wareham Drive, Tampa, FL  33647, (813) 971-8080. John LaRosa is available for interviews.

About Marketdata

Marketdata is a private market research and consulting firm that has specialized in the weight loss market since 1989—32 years. It has published more than 50 in-depth weight loss market studies, performs custom research projects, and regularly holds teleconference calls about the market. Mr. LaRosa, President, has consulted for many large and small weight loss companies, physicians, start-ups and entrepreneurs and the media. Marketdata also operates a free weight loss news website called

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 Weight Loss Programs
 Multi-level Marketing
 Meal Replacements
 Market Research Reports
 Commercial Weight Loss

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