Nielsen’s Consumer Insight Magazine reports that rising rates of obesity in the United States can be attributed not only to increasing calorie consumption and less exercise, but also to “pure demographics.” According to the report, “The population is older than ever before and Americans tend to be fatter when older. Women are heavier, and because they live longer than men, they make up a higher share of the older population. Lastly, Hispanics—the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S.—tend to have higher obesity rates.” The report, titled “A Widening Market: The Obese Consumer in the U.S.,” also notes that the average American consumes 15-20 more pounds of fat each year than he did 100 years ago.

As to assessing responsibility for weight gain, more than 80 percent of consumers admit they are to blame, about the same as those agreeing in 2006 that weight gain is attributable to eating too much and not exercising enough. In 2006, however, only 2 percent of consumers surveyed placed the most blame for obesity on food companies and 6 percent on fast food restaurants. In 2008, nearly three quarters of those surveyed “believe that people are encouraged to eat less-healthy food by advertising, and that these companies should provide healthier food.” Fast food companies and the government “get off surprisingly easy and are not seen as nearly as important a player in the obesity blame game as food companies.”

Nielsen suggests its report gives marketers critical information about understanding obese consumers and can help them create products to address the problem. For example, the report notes that consumers embraced Nintendo’s Wii Fit®, suggesting that “making weight loss a game” could be a successful approach to addressing the obesity problem. See, October 30, 2008.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.