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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 16:03 GMT
Fat man, thin man
By Penny Palmer
BBC Money Programme

Men are beginning to worry about dieting
Geoff Pisarra lost weight with NutriSystem
Ready-meal junkie Nick Sykes has something in common with two-thirds of British men. He is clinically overweight.

Nick recognises that he is on a slippery slope.

"If I don't do something about the way that I eat, I will just turn into a big, fat middle-aged man," he says.

Nick's trouble is that he has always seen dieting as a women's thing - and so have businesses.

Men's diet taboo

For decades, companies have made fortunes selling health and diet products to women.

But it's not as if men don't need to shed a few pounds as well.

And the lethal problem of obesity in Britain is growing 50% faster in men than women.

Despite this, surveys show that men are only about half as likely as women to make the effort to slim.


Now companies such as Coke, Nimble and Tesco have turned their attention to men who are interested in healthy eating and weight loss.

Nutrisystem Lasagna
2002: $27m
2003: $22.5m
2004: $37.9m
2005: $212.5m
2006: $568.2m

The rationale is simple.

Men have been ignored in the world of diets and healthy eating.

However, hook them and watch the profits roll in. But John Allert of Interbrand knows the male diet market is notoriously difficult to crack.

He says: "Men are in denial of the whole dieting and slimming phenomenon. As soon as you start talking to them in words like diet and slim, men will run a mile."

Tricking men

So businesses have to find new ways of selling their products if they want to appeal to men.

Men respond to well to humour.

Nimble launched a new campaign for its low calorie bread featuring a builder being tricked into slimming by his wife.

Coke Zero, or "bloke Coke", was launched using bloke jokes.

Male obesity expert and entrepreneur Jane Deville-Almond is well aware that fat chaps are reluctant to seek advice.

So instead she seeks them out in places where they meet - like pubs.

And she's very careful to avoid the "D" word - diet - when speaking with her clients.

Curry Slim

Tiny Deol also believes she can crack the male market with her range of low-calorie curry sauces and ready meals: Curry Slim.

But she's discovered that while men like the idea of a guilt-free curry, they are put off by the word "slim" almost as much as the word "diet".

As a result she's had to devise a new strategy to sell her product to her target market and has recently renamed her product Tiny Lite.

Britain's largest retailer, Tesco, runs Britain's largest online diet service, Tescodiets.com.

While the website is meant to be unisex, Tesco is the first to admit that the content and imagery is very female-oriented and can put men off.

However, this week Tesco is launching "For Him", pages specifically designed for men who want to lose weight.

Tesco's research shows that men like to be told what to do and their new website pages do exactly this.

Going one step further is American company NutriSystem. Where Tesco take some of the thinking out of the equation, NutriSystem very nearly do everything for the customer.

Customers sign up for a month's supply of calorie and portion-size controlled meals, which are delivered to their doorstep.

It's the ultimate in convenience weight loss.

NutriSystem has been a phenomenal business success in America, topping Forbes' 200 Best Small Companies list in 2006, with a turnover of US$568m - up from $212m in 2005.

It will be coming to the UK in early 2008.

Money Programme: Fat Man, Thin Man. Broadcast Friday 9 March at 1900 GMT on BBC Two.

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