Adiba Ashrafi works at a private organisation in Dhaka. In three months, her weight increased by 10 kilograms as she was habituated to irregular meals due to her busy working schedules. Following her doctor's advice, she started taking diet foods to lose weight.
Her diet includes oats, apple cider vinegar and almonds. Consuming these foods, she has lost six kilograms of weight. She is still taking diet food as per doctor's advice. She said she will give up diet food after losing at least 5-6 kgs more.
Among diet foods, oats, apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, peanut butter, mayonnaise, cooking coconut oil, cocoa powder, almonds and diet soda have increasing market demand. Most of these products are imported.
Discovery Products Limited imports and markets diet foods in the country.
Accounts manager of the company Rony Sajid told The Business Standard, "We have been importing diet food products for the last three years. In the beginning, we used to import one container of apple cider vinegar every three months, but due to an increase in demand, we now import a container a month."
He said as the market for diet foods continues to grow in the country, they are regularly importing some more products including coconut oil, cocoa powder, almonds, oats, olive oil, and diet soda.
Imports of these products have tripled in recent times, the official said.
Sales department officials of chain supershop Swapno also said sales of diet foods have increased a lot. Among the diet products, apple cider vinegar and oats are sold most.
Rashed Kabir, manager of another chain shop Unimart's Dhanmondi branch, told TBS that earlier even a dozen bottles of apple cider vinegar were not sold in a month. Now it sells more than 50 a day. Cooking coconut oil was sold not more than one jar per month which now is sold 20 jars a day.
Earlier, these food items were sold only in big super shops; now they are also being sold in small shops in the neighborhood.
Noor Alam Shikder, owner of Mamun General Store in Mirpur, said, "We sell oats worth Tk4,000-5,000 and apple cider vinegar worth Tk7,000-8,000 per month. Besides, I have been selling cashew nuts for six months now."
Due to the increasing demand, the number of importers of diet foods is also increasing rapidly. One such organisation is Union Corporation. Majeedul Islam who works in the sales and marketing department of the company told TBS, "Large super shops, department stores and retailers take diet foods from us. Even two years ago, there was not much demand for these products."
Contacted, Professor of Nutrition and Nutrition Science Institute, Dhaka University Nazma Shahin said, "The type of diet varies from person to person. For this you have to take the advice of a doctor. And just dieting does not reduce weight. You also need to exercise regularly."
"If you do not exercise regularly, weight would increase again once you leave diet foods," she added.
Regarding the quality control of these imported foods, Mantosh Kumar Das, assistant director of the Certification Marks wing of the Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute (BSTI), said, "We are testing these imported products and giving them marketing clearance. However, due to a lack of manpower and technical capacity, there is a shortage in market monitoring."