As the keto diet trend continues, we examine its popularity—including the projected market size, how keto differs from paleo and keto product growth and gaps
KerryDigest Fast Facts:
- Having only become mainstream in recent years, keto is now well known around the globe, with everyone from athletes to self-help gurus adopting the high-fat, low-carb style of eating.
- Projections value the keto market as having a CAGR of 5.5% and reaching 15.64B USD by 2027.
- Brands ready to cater to keto consumers can make products fit for the rapidly growing category of keto and keto-inspired food and beverage products.
- This article covers core keto products, keto market gaps, keto label claims and nutritional considerations for manufacturers interested in appealing to keto consumers.
KerryDigest Full Scope:
The ketogenic diet, or “keto,” has had a meteoric rise, and its market size is only increasing. Proponents of keto tout its weight-loss effects and often claim it provides increased mental clarity and energy. Consumers from a diverse range of backgrounds are testing it out, if not making a full lifestyle commitment. Even endurance athletes are getting in on the keto trend, albeit with mixed results.
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This enduring popularity paves the way for manufacturers to introduce keto products that deliver on the high-fat, low-carb formula, especially ones that bring in some of the nutrients and vitamins often lacking in a keto diet, which largely eschews fruits and vegetables.
To help brands see if keto fits in their product planning, we’ve assembled some background on the ketogenic diet and gathered new statistics on the keto market size and trends, including recent keto product launches and areas of opportunities.
The keto diet calls for a daily intake of just 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates—fat and some protein are the hallmarks of this style of eating. By following this high-fat formula, a person following keto is said to shift into ketosis, the metabolic state in which energy is mostly derived from fat. Studies suggest this has a positive effect on the brain and body, such as weight loss and improved mental function.
Keto isn’t new, despite its recent rise in the mainstream. It was created in the 1920s to help treat epilepsy, and the medical community still embraces it as a proactive treatment. Its benefits are believed to come from a natural decline in brain inflammation.
Our article “The Keto Craze: Charting Growth and Identifying Keto Product Gaps”, from 2018, provides a more in-depth look at keto’s recent history, but entrepreneur Dave Asprey, of the Bulletproof Diet, is credited with introducing consumers to keto. His Bulletproof Coffee recipe blends coffee with high-quality grass-fed unsalted butter and oil; advocates say they stay energized for longer, thanks to all of the fat, which slows caffeine absorption.
As keto became more commonplace, many consumers lumped it in with paleo, another diet that is relatively low carb. But the paleo diet—which was trending a few years before keto—emphasises protein consumption over fat and generally eschews dairy. Conversely, keto followers tend to eat even fewer carbs and often rely on fats including raw, whole and hormone-free varieties of dairy such as cream and butter.
The growing keto market
In 2018, the global keto market was valued at 9.70b USD; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% to reach to 15.64b USD by 2027, according to the Insight Partners.
These projections align with new research from Mordor Intelligence, which found Europe is home to the greatest share of keto consumers—North America comes in second. With these regions already established, Asia Pacific is the location said to be experiencing the fastest growth in keto interest and adherence. Although keto may be less known in Africa and Latin America, there is emerging recognition and interest.
This trend is also apparent in web browser search statistics. According to Google Trends, search frequency for “keto” remains strong. In the U.S., there was an 850% increase in search volume between January of 2016 and January of 2020. (Note the January spikes each year, which are presumed to be resolution-related.)
Although Google searches for keto amongst Americans are slightly down from their peak in January of 2019, this may be due in part to increased familiarity with the term, rather than a diminishing market size.
Interest over time (definition): Numbers represent search with a value of 100 noting the peak popularity for the term. Terms not reaching 100 on this chart reached their peak before the time period tracked.
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Core keto products
Because the ketogenic diet encourages eating products derived from grass-fed animals, one core ketogenic staples is grass-fed butter. Organic meat products, hormone-free eggs and keto bone broths are also popular amongst keto followers, as are MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil, almond flour, cacao nibs, pork rinds, nut butters, coconut chips and various keto-friendly beverages.
As keto grows, it’s also evolving. Consumer behaviour suggests many keto consumers are actually following a keto-ish plan, rather than a strict interpretation. (This is a shift from rigid diets—you’re either “on” or “off”—which have generally been the norm.)
On social media, consumers are sharing keto-ordering tips at restaurants and dozens of articles note which foodservice locations are most keto-friendly. Other posts offer tips for following an “almost-keto” eating plan—such recipes for keto-inspired cocktails and desserts.
The appearance of these keto-adjacent recipes and tips indicates that keto consumers are flexible in their approach. But, it also suggests that there’s an appetite for keto products not yet on the market, or that there’s a lack of understanding of which currently available products align with the keto lifestyle.
Label claims for keto products
There’s an easy fix for brands that make keto or keto-ish products and want to increase their market share: simply make it easier for consumers to recognize when products align with their eating style.
To make keto products more recognizable to consumers, brands may want to:
- Add keto-friendly labels. If foods and beverages fit the basic tenets of keto, such as having low amounts of carbohydrates or lots of healthy fats, brands may want to advertise these qualities on pack.
- Add a keto-specific certification. Keto-specific certifications are now available for use in some locations, and could help set products apart.
- Add keto-adjacent claims. Keto followers also look for claims such as “organic”, “grass-fed”, “non-GMO”, “hormone-free” and “reduced sugar”. (Brands seem to be embracing this already: in the U.S., the overall “grass-fed” claim in retail grew by 23% between 2017 and 2018 , according to Nielsen.)
- Add the “paleo” label. Because keto and paleo diets share some similar characteristics, paleo labels may still be attractive to keto customers. Paleo menu item claims nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018, according to Mintel’s Menu Insights, so this could be good news for keto followers as well as paleo-catering restaurants.
Growing keto product categories
Keto-friendly beverages are trending, according to Mordor Intelligence, as are keto meals, sauces and condiments, sweeteners and dark chocolate. But brands are figuring out how to deliver a whole array of products that are keto or keto-ish. Recent keto product launches range from ice cream and coffee creamer to snack bars and bread.
Keto meal kits—which were just starting to catch on in 2018, when Hello Fresh acquired Green Chef—are now so plentiful that several articles help consumers identify the “top 10” in the category.
Even unexpected allies are embracing keto: for instance, the South Beach Diet® recently launched a keto-friendly plan, and a Canadian pizza chain is selling a keto-crust pizza. There appears to be no limit to the types of foods keto followers want to consume.
So long as the keto trend lasts, there’s still room for more product additions. A recent inquiry into Google search data found the below terms are trending among consumers in the U.S., illuminating potential keto product opportunities:
- keto breakfasts
- keto snacks
- keto desserts
- keto pancakes
- keto bread
- keto cheesecake
- keto ice cream
Customising keto products for consumer appeal
Whether you call it a diet or a lifestyle, the nutrition of keto-friendly products is also important to consider. “Being on keto is not a free pass to eat all high fat foods, and to never touch another vegetable,” says Nathan Pratt, PhD, RD, Nutrition Scientist with Kerry.
Pratt suggests brands consider the below in order to make products that optimise and enhance the benefits of the keto diet.
- Keto products should include healthy fats, a majority of which should be unsaturated fats from plant oils.
- Saturated fat intake should be limited. Most global dietary guidelines suggest this, although some research has shown saturated fats like medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) or those found in dairy might not be as harmful to our health as we once thought.
- Because It is hard for people on keto to get enough fiber, fruits and vegetable servings, keto products could benefit from the addition or fibre and vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and folate.
- Although traditional keto recommends no more than 50 grams of carbohydrate a day, keto has become more flexible over the last couple of years. Products in the general low-carb, high-fat range may be adopted by keto-ish consumers.
Kerry has experience helping brands create keto-friendly products. To learn more about our proprietary consumer insights on the keto market, or to discuss ways your products can be reformulated to appeal to the keto consumer, contact Kerry.