Some 95% of Europe's and US food and drink manufacturers say they cannot afford to ignore the impact of low-carb dieting on the industry. And, over a quarter view the development of low-carbohydrate foods as a priority.

The figure comes from research released by Reuters Business Insight, which says that a quarter of all companies are are actively investing in the research and development of new products.

"There is no doubt that the consumer's appetite for low-carbohydrate foods is huge. With big names entering the market on a daily basis, it is important that the UK food and drink industry realises the potential of the sector," said Camilla Palmer, author of the report.

Changing patterns in daily life coupled with alterations in diet have caused shifts in both the Body Mass Index (BMI) profile of European nations and the ways in which the citizens of these nations perceive themselves. Across western Europe, the trend is for people to put on weight, mimicking the development of the BMI profile in the United States. One-third of western European consumers are now overweight and by 2006 this will increase to almost half.

The European dieting market is forecast to be worth over €100bn in 2007 and it is estimated that 3m British consumers are now actively cutting their carbohydrate intake. The potential opportunities to tap into this market are huge.

Almost two-thirds of respondents see the burgeoning of the low-carb sector as an opportunity and over a quarter say their companies have already manufactured a product under the low-carbohydrate umbrella.

The respondents thought the sectors most likely to be affected were bakery, confectionery and snack-foods. Sectors such as chilled and frozen foods, ambient meals, sauces and dressings, fruit juices and carbonates and beers and lagers, all of which traditionally contain carbohydrates either in variety or ingredients make-up, are also seen as likely candidates to be influenced by the low-carbohydrate trend.

The spirits and wine sectors remain relatively unaffected, however, in the eyes of the industry. Most products within these sectors contain a relatively low-carbohydrate count, meaning that any shift could come in the form of remarketing to capitalise on consumers' enthusiasm for low-carbohydrate choices.