Marketing in the Obesity Age

New research shows that by 2030, 44 percent of adults in each state will be obese. How can you market products and services to this group?
October 12, 2012

If obesity rates in America continue the way they are going, more than 60 percent of adults in 13 states could be obese by 2030—and more than 44 percent of adults in every state could be obese by that date, warns F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012, a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

While this report is filled with sobering information, for entrepreneurs, it also contains opportunity in helping and providing products and services for obese customers. 

Exercise. Gyms or personal training programs that cater to overweight or obese clients are a niche with lots of room to grow. If you already own a gym, consider adding special classes where obese clients won’t feel uncomfortable or intimidated. Personal training is a natural for this market; if you can offer the encouragement, privacy and support obese clients need, you have it made.

On the high-tech side, consider creating an exercise or motivational app, offering personal training or customized exercise plans online or via DVD, or developing gadgets that help people track exercise efforts and results.

Food. Of course, there are also opportunities in helping overweight and obese Americans lose weight. Calorie counting apps, dishes or tools to measure portion size, diet programs, customized food delivery services and “weight-loss coaching” are all ideas for profiting from Americans’ need to cut back. For restaurant owners, mini-portions are already a hot trend, and packaged snacks that make calorie-counting easy are a hot idea for food manufacturers.

Clothing. Designers are starting to recognize that obese Americans want clothes that fit well and look fashionable, but there’s still a lot of opportunity in the plus-sized market. While women might be the first market that comes to mind for plus-sized clothing, don’t forget about men, teenagers and children. Personally, I think there’s a huge niche for tween and teenage boys; you could also consider niche clothing like wedding dresses or formal wear. The demand is not limited to clothes, either—accessories (like purses, jewelry and shoes) all need to be bigger to fit right and look good on a larger frame. Major designers are expanding to offer plus-sized lines—why shouldn’t your clothing business do so, too.

Products. Obesity creates demand for a raft of products catering to larger-sized customers. Manufacturers: Your imagination is the only limit here—the needs include everything from larger, sturdier sofas and chairs to seat-belts. Products can be marketed to businesses, too—heavy-duty office chairs, for example. 

Children. Reversing the childhood obesity epidemic is the key to turning around the overall rise in obesity rates, the report says—and again, entrepreneurs can help. Ideas include extracurricular or after-school fitness programs for children. With many school districts cutting back on physical education, parents are eager to find ways for their kids to get active. Consider working with day care centers or kids’ clubs to provide gymnastics, sports or other fitness activities for their kid clientele. Or add children’s fitness to your existing gym or health club.

Whether obesity rates level off, surge or decline, there’s opportunity in either accepting or helping to reverse this trend.