The 'Paleo Diet' Isn't as Popular as It Seems
Sales trends show the caveman-inspired trend is still just a niche.
If you think the Paleo Diet trend has hit its peak, think again. Though it’s been 15 years since Loren Cordain published his original The Paleo Diet tome, sales of paleo-focused products continue to grow. However, if find yourself wondering how many people are really on this thing, you can feel free to trust your instincts. Though analysts believe that Paleo sales will continue to increase, for now, the diet is still just a niche.
In the past year, sales of products with “Paleo” in the name increased by 8 percent, and between 2015 and 2016, the number of Paleo-themed product launches was up 35 percent, according to statistics cited by FoodNavigator USA. However, though experts anticipate that growth to continue, Lynn Dornblaser of market research company Mintel suggested that the success of the Paleo Diet may be disproportionate to how it feels. “What we see for the most part, is Paleo has a lot of appeal for a very small segment,” Dornblaser was quoted as saying. “And that very small segment talks about it all the time, so it feels like it’s way more important than it is.”
Though pegging the exacting number of people on the Paleo Diet is tough – a 2013 NPR article put it at 1 to 3 million people, or below 1 percent of the US population – one theme that does regularly appear is the zeal of its followers. NPR referred to them as “a passionate bunch”; Religion Dispatches suggested the diet has “a disproportionate cultural influence.” Even if 1 percent of the US was Paleo, compare that to a 2014 article saying that, at the time, a third of Americans were trying to cut gluten from their diets, and it’s easy to see just how niche Paleo really is.
Still, Sally Lyons-Wyatt of research firm IRI believes the Paleo market has plenty of room to grow. “Over the next few years, I think you’re going to see increased penetration from tryers and repeaters,” she told FoodNavigator. “But if you look at the manufacturers in it now, they’re not the big guys yet… We haven’t even scratched the surface on core categories coming out with Paleo options.” Lyons-Wyatt believes that if mainstream brands become willing to embrace the Paleo trend, annual sales could hit $4 billion – a number as big as the Greek yogurt trend (which could be on the downswing - French yogurt, anyone?). You can probably already hear your Paleo friends talking about how they were on the diet before it went mainstream.