Online Dieting Represents A $910 Million Market

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Thousands of Sites, But Profitability Remains Elusive

"Diet websites motivate and inform, but not all are created equal."

Marketdata Enterprises, a 32-year old market research firm that has tracked the U.S. weight loss market since 1989, has released a groundbreaking new report entitled: Diet Websites: A Market & Competitor Analysis.

Literally thousands of diet websites exist, yet most don’t make any money or profit. and SparkPeople are the leaders. A variety of revenue generating models are used, but the trend seems to be toward free, advertiser-supported sites, rather than paid subscriptions. More free review/information websites have appeared, taking their place among product-oriented sites that actually sell a diet program or diet products.

     According to Research Director, John LaRosa: “Weight loss websites are popular because they provide 24/7 convenience, confidentiality, and no embarrassing weigh-ins. During this recession, more dieters have chosen to do it themselves and save money by using Internet-based programs. Many weight loss websites provide reviews, articles, blogs and forums free of charge but even those that charge $15-20 a month are relative bargains when compared to commercial programs that can cost thousands. They are here to stay.”

Report’s major findings:

  •     Market Value… Marketdata analysts estimate that the online dieting market was worth a minimum of $842 million in 2009 and $910 million in 2010. That’s not all-inclusive, but we believe it accounts for probably 85% of the identifiable market. Online dieting revenues fell nearly 22% during the recession, but will resume growth again, averaging 7.8% gains to 2014.
  •     79% of dieters in 2010 said that their preferred diet program location or format was “home/online/telephone”, up from 59% in 2005.
  •     The share of dieters that have ever used a weight loss website rose to 23.8% in 2010, the highest share in six years (vs. 17.5% in 2005), while the share reporting using a weight loss center fell from 47.4% to 40.6%. The share using non-prescription diet pills as a dieting method fell from 37.6% to 30.3% between 2005 and 2010.
  •     Following are the actual or estimated 2009 revenues of 8 major diet websites: eDiets ($19 million), NutriSystem ($527), ($196), Medifast ($47), SparkPeople ($7), The Biggest Loser Club ($63), Jillian Michaels ($23), Lindora Online ($5-6). has grown to 1 million paid subscribers as of late 2010, several hundred thousand more than just a few years ago. This is the fastest-growing division of the company, with $196 million in revenues for 2009. The popular TV show The Biggest Loser has 450,000 paid subscribers to its online diet plan and is a $100 million brand.
  • – This site has quietly taken market share away from most of the major diet websites, mainly because the diet plan they offer comes free of charge. The founder also had a significant kitty to fund the site’s development, and it has become a “viral” diet website that gets a good amount of organic traffic. This site is estimated to get 5 million total visits per month, and is part of the large Everyday Health Network.
  •     Marketdata thinks that for a weight loss website to grow to significant size in terms of traffic and registered users, it will have to adopt the free, advertiser-supported model.
  •     Over the period 2005-2010, across the board, we saw that the share of online dieters that needed some level of psychological support has risen -- reaching 5-year highs in 2010. Fully 74% of online dieters need emotional eating support (help with stress management and binge eating).
  •     Website Valuations… Weight loss websites can vary tremendously and not all of a site’s features can be measured quantitatively. Key factors that affect a selling price include: revenue model used (paid subscriptions to a diet plan vs. free, ad-supported site), whether the site has unique tools or features, custom programming, site longevity, traffic volume and where it comes from, whether it operates email newsletters, reputation, the quality/quantity of its content, operating costs, and whether it is profitable.
  •     Most subscribers to online diet plans don’t stay more than 7 months, and the cost to acquire a new digital subscriber is about $92.

According John LaRosa: “Most of the 75 million U.S. dieters overall are do-it-yourselfers—estimated by several other studies and government and private sector organizations to be as high as 70%. The share for Marketdata’s sample group was even higher—fully 79% in the 4th quarter 2010— not far from our highest reading ever. This reflects the recession, as consumers moved to do it themselves to cut costs.”


Diet Websites: A Market & Competitor Analysis, published in January 2011, is an independently researched “off-the-shelf” study. The study has 171 pages, 42 tables. It costs $1,495 and is also sold by individual chapters. A table of contents is available by mail, email or fax. A 23 pp. Overview summary is available to the public for $79.
The study traces the market from 2005-2014, examining these topics: types of diet websites, market size, revenue models used, how they obtain traffic, what online dieters are looking for, valuing a diet website for sale, strategies, and detailed competitor profiles. Extensive tables rank the top 27 diet websites by traffic, features, and Web metrics.


Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., is an independent market research firm and 22-year analyst of the U.S. weight loss industry since 1989. Marketdata publishes many weight loss market studies, sells dieter leads, and performs consulting. It also operates a leading free diet review website: Mr. LaRosa is available for interviews.

Contact Information

John LaRosa,
Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., Tampa, FL
Phone: 813-907-9090
Fax: 813-907-3606
email: john(at)marketdataenterprises(dot)com


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