Low-carb trend appears to be waning

May 18, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C.Sales of low-carb products have fallen sharply at independent retail and health-food stores, and according to a report in the Washington Post, attendees of a recent conference held here say the anticipated decline in the latest diet craze is underway.

"I do think now we're on the downside of the roller coaster," said Dean Rotbart, executive editor of industry trade publication LowCarbiz, which organized the conference.

Food manufacturers see a cool-down, too.

"It's kind of exploded, it's a trend, and then it becomes, really, a niche," said Michael E. Diegel, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America Inc. "That's where it looks like it's going at this point."

Curtis Price, co-owner of Whoa . . . That's Lo!, a low-carb store in Silver Spring, Va., said sales at his specialty retail outlet are down 15 percent to 20 percent in the past two months.

"It reached a peak, and now it's trickling off, but it's going to eventually level out," he said.

Many in the food industry believe the sales decline signals larger problems, namely that people are giving up on low-carb diets after not doing them right.

"More and more consumers aren't really understanding what's involved in the low-carb lifestyle ... so you have an increasing number of people failing" to lose weight on low-carb diets, Arne Bey, president and chief executive of leading low-carb manufacturer Keto Foods LLC, said at the conference.

Brad Saltzman, a low-carb retailer profiled recently in a Time magazine cover story on the low-carb craze, is already backing out of the business. Just a couple of months ago, he proclaimed his two new low-carb stores in Los Angeles would turn into a chain of stores with $100 million in sales in five years.

Now one of his locations is ringing up less than $1,000 in sales a day, Saltzman said, and numbers are "falling every week. ... Our retail days in low-carb are over."

Topics: Dough

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