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Keto, Paleo, Atkins: Which Low-Carb Diets Are Consumers Talking About?

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Over the last few years, the low-carb diet has gone through several iterations, namely keto, paleo, and Atkins. As data from consumer discussions show: when interest in one diet rises, interest in others falls.

Keto Leads the Pack in 2019

Today, the ketogenic diet is the king of the low-carb diets when measured by number of consumer discussions. As of August 2019, the word keto had appeared in some 700K discussions in the past year, up 9.1% from the previous 12 months, and continuing an upward trend stretching back 2-3 years. Keto accounted for 1.1% of all consumer discussions about food.


Consumer Discussion About Keto, September 2017 – August 2019


Source: Signals Playbook, September 2017 – August 2019


By comparison, the word paleo appeared in 0.3% of consumer discussions, down 7.5% year-on-year. Atkins, which had the low-carb market virtually all to itself until around 2010, dropped 13.9% year-on-year to fewer than 1% of discussions.


Consumer Discussion About Paleo, September 2017 – August 2019


Source: Signals Playbook, September 2017 – August 2019


One explanation for keto’s success is that it has enjoyed last-mover advantage. Although technically the oldest of the three diets – keto was used to treat epilepsy in the 1920s, while the Atkins and paleo diets can be traced back to the ‘60s and ‘70s respectively – the keto diet only took hold as a weight-loss diet in 2017-18. This was around the time it was popularized on social media by celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Halle Berry and Katie Couric.

Brands and Consumers Not Aligned on Keto

When it comes to marketing their food products as ketogenic, brands are out of sync with what their target consumers are saying online. Among other things, the keto diet encourages high-fat, low-carb forms of cheese like blue cheese and goat cheese, but rejects highly-processed cheeses such as cheddar.

Followers of the keto diet discuss dairy more than any other category, placing it at the center of 23.3% discussions, well ahead of next-placed dry canned and packaged foods (16.0%), and meat, poultry, and seafood (11.6%). And yet, less than 4% of products mentioning keto fall into the dairy category. Dry foods and meat fare only slightly better, with each accounting for around 5% of ketogenic products.

Despite what consumers are saying, the food categories brands most frequently link with keto are sweet and savory snacks (18.2% of all keto products), sauces, dressings, dips, and condiments (13.1%), plus baking ingredients and flavoring (10.6%).


The story is more or less the same for the other diets. In paleo, consumers care most about dry foods, but snacks are most likely to be marked paleo. In Atkins, consumers care most about dairy, but dairy is virtually unseen and in fact chocolate confectionery accounts for 46.1% of all products marked Atkins.


Keeping Up With Consumers’ Dietary Preferences

The top brands in the keto market are mainly single-category brands, like Miracle Noodle, which produces keto-friendly pastas, and Guy Gone Keto, a maker of sugar-free ketogenic condiments. Of the top 10 brands in the keto market by number of products, none are focused on dairy or other foods most-frequently mentioned by people who follow the keto diet.


Leading Brands Claiming Keto, September 2017 – August 2019


Given the consumer interest, there is an opportunity here for keto businesses to branch out into dairy and for dairy businesses to start labelling their products as keto. To stay ahead of the next fashionable weight-loss diet, brands must uncover areas of increased consumer interest, while assessing the state and saturation of the market.


Insights by Uri Goldberg

Director of Insights at Signals Analytics

Uri Goldberg is a management expert, specializing in serving governments and corporations on strategy, innovations and economic development issues. He worked with McKinsey & Co. where he directed key consulting projects for Fortune 500 companies, as well as governments in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He also served as Foreign Policy Aid in the office of Israeli President Shimon Peres in his former capacity as Vice Prime Minister.

Written by Nadav Shemer


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Signals Analytics and its next-gen, on-demand data platform takes trillions of unstructured and unconnected external data points and turns it into actionable insights for product Innovation, Marketing and Strategy. The platform’s analytic engines connect disparate data with deep context to help brands better align with evolving trends. Signals Analytics’ clients include Procter & Gamble, e.l.f., Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, Roche, Mars, and others. Backed by Sequoia Capital, Qumra Capital, Pitango Growth and TPY Capital, Signals Analytics is redefining market research for the world's leading brands.

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