The fact that obesity has grown to epidemic proportions in the U.S. and around the world is, regrettably, old news at this point. According to a late 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40 percent of American adults and nearly 20 percent of adolescents are obese – the highest rates in U.S. recorded history. And by the granular numbers, the picture looks even worse: Obesity among women has more than doubled in some regions over the last decade-and-a-half.
With the rise in obesity has come an uptick in ancillary medical costs for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, joint and skeletal damage and other related conditions, a list that medical experts agree is ever-expanding. And while it is a problem that desperately needs fixing, the issue has proven to be more prone to expansion than contraction.
As anyone who has ever been on a diet can attest, losing weight is very hard to do. In the U.S. alone, about 45 million consumers go on diets every year – usually in the early part of the year – and 70 percent or so will quit within 90 days.
And even for the 30 percent who actually stick with their new diet regimen and see some actual results, about 80 percent will gain it all back within five years – and many will gain back more than they lost.
Plus, while the U.S. is largely credited for the global epidemic – even if we are no longer technically the “fattest” country on Earth (congratulations, Nauru) – the problem has definitively spread inside our national borders. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is on track to affect 50 percent of the global population or more by the year 2030, at an annual projected cost of $2 trillion, or roughly 2.8 percent of global GDP.
But for entrepreneurs and innovators, a $2 trillion problem can also double as an opportunity – and the business of helping consumers lose weight is looking incredibly fit these days. Depending on how one defines the terms “weight management” or “weight loss services,” the industry is projected to be valued at $21 billion on the low end up to $443 billion on the high end by the year 2025.
And given the large number of players, the methods being tapped to connect consumers to the secrets to sustainable weight loss are proliferating. There are the classics, of course – Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and the segment’s reigning champion, Weight Watchers, which brings in roughly $1.5 billion in revenue a year.
But the market is changing and new players are entering – most notably Noom, a subscription weight management and fitness program that has been dubbed “Weight Watchers for millennials.”
Noom is an app-based method for tracking calories and activity. Users set a weight loss goal and then undertake a customized diet and exercise plan to attack that goal over a 16-week period, during which time they log their food consumption and exercise. Users also interact with the greater Noom community and have access to both individual coaching with a human health expert and the use of a virtual coach.
“By analyzing all types of user attitudes and behavior patterns, we help consumers embark on a weight loss journey that maximizes their chances for finding weight loss resolution success,” Dr. Andreas Michaelides, Noom’s chief of psychology, told PYMNTS. “We already know past behaviors and attitudes are strong indicators of what will happen in the future. Using Big Data, we are now able to quantify the past in novel ways and help users change patterns to avoid the unique pitfalls that have prevented them from finding success.”
U.K.-based startup Second Nature (recently rebranded from OurPath) takes the high-tech approach to buttressing weight loss efforts by adding a smart scale and health and habit tracking data to the mix, as well as a slightly different focus. Instead of concentrating on weight loss, Co-founder Mike Gibbs noted in an email to PYMNTS, their app enables users to slowly work their way through lifestyle changes over the course of the 12-week program.
“Our goal as Second Nature is to solve obesity. We need to rise above the confusing health misinformation to provide clarity about what’s really important: changing habits,” noted Gibbs.
Second Nature started out as an NHS-supported initiative that has since grown into a private venture. The firm recently raised $10 million in Series A funding to push its sustainable lifestyle-changing app into the wider global market. And, if its internal data is correct, they do make a powerful offering around sustainability. On average, consumers lose a little under 15 pounds while using the program – weight that its peer-reviewed data indicates was still gone at the six- and 12-month mark.