The percentage of Americans on low-carb diets dipped from 9.1% earlier this year to 4.9% in November, according to NPD Group, causing many companies to rethink their low-carb strategies. American Italian Pasta Co., for instance, plans to zero in on the low-calorie, high-fiber benefits of its product, rather than its carb count.
The "low-carb economy" currently counts Sara Lee, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, T.G.I. Friday's and Ben & Jerry's, among others, as its members with special products, and while one low-carb trade magazine publisher predicts a consumer backlash, the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the diet appears to be making a permanent imprint on eating habits.
Many businesses are benefiting from the low-carb craze, with specialty shops selling only low-carb foods opening in major cities at the rate of two per week. Grocery stores are rearranging shelves to accommodate low-carb products, even though these items can be money-losers for grocers because their high price limits markups.
There are currently more than a dozen low-carb beers on the market, and one beer trade magazine editor guesses every major brewery is experimenting with new low-carb products. Michelob Ultra currently accounts for 2.1% of supermarket beer sales, but there is concern that the growth of low-carb beers might come at the expense of light beer sales.