Complex Made Simple

The world’s obsession with “lite”: Uber Middle East is next

"Lite" as a concept and as a marketing buzzword has become a staple of modern culture.

The word "lite" as a contraction of "light" has been in use for almost a century While dominant in the F & B sector, its use has spread to other industries Uber Middle East is the latest on the "lite" bandwagon

It’s Uber’s turn to go “lite” on us.

No, the taxis are still the same size, if you’re wondering.

What’s going on?

Some background may be in order…

First, a quick detour.

The world has been obsessed with the buzzword lite for almost a century now. Lite soda, lite dessert, and now even lite apps! If there exists a more diminished version of a product, it will be labelled lite.

Where did this obsession come from, and how has it come to transcend food products?

Where did the word “lite” originate from?

Obviously, the term comes as a form of colloquialism or slang of the word light, used as meaning less of something. Lightweight, light content, etc.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it began being consciously used as a contraction of “light” as early as 1917 in marketing speak, even if it has roots in Old English under the same meaning.

Understanding the product marketing behind the buzzword

From a technical standpoint, “when a food label uses the term “light” or “lite,” it indicates that a food has one third fewer calories or 50% less fat, or 50% less sodium than a comparable product (as regulated in the US by the FDA and USDA),” Toby Smithson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, notes.

From a product marketing perspective, lite implies you are on the conservative side, considering your health and/or consumption. In an international culture that encourages and thrives on overspending and consumption, lite has emerged as the natural opposite to this, propagated by the same culture that pushes consumerism in the first place.

‘Now that you’ve overindulged on our overpriced, fat-rich products, it’s time for us to remind you that you need to get that beach summer body before June arrives! Why not try our lite-offerings? 0-fat and 0-sugar, guaranteed! Don’t mind what we replace them with, though…’

It’s a vicious cycle that encourages endless spending.

The weight-watcher craze of a few decades ago brought the concept of lite to the forefront, and the millennial culture of vegetarianism, veganism and wellness has served to make lite even bigger than it already was, bringing a more well-rounded health approach to it. As such, businesses have had to up their game by branching out their lite spiel to sodium and other nutritional content.

Evolving beyond the F&B sector, and where Uber comes in

While the word was used in the food and beverages industry primarily, it has come to pervade other industries.

“People might attach a “lite” label to anything (or anyone) simpler than the original version,” Grammarly explains.

As is fitting with the digital age, lite has spilled over to app design. Things like Facebook Lite, Skype Lite and Instagram Lite are now industry givens, existing to serve users with limited data plans or in countries with less a than stellar internet connection.

Just this week, Uber Lite launched in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. At 5 MB in size, it will allow usage of the app with low-tier smartphones and even through a weak internet connection. It is lite in data size and lite in the experience itself, offering a more basic Uber UX.

Looking ahead

As millennial culture continues to emphasize the concept of wellness, “lite” and all it connotes will continue to increase in intensity in the F & B sector, while continuously spilling over to other industries.

From lite foods, to lite-devices, to lite-cryptocurrencies, the sky is the limit.