Lean Cuisine ditches “diet” for “wellbeing” in emotionally-charged rebranding

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Lean Cuisine aims to change the conversation about weight and value perceptions. Source: Lean Cuisine
Lean Cuisine aims to change the conversation about weight and value perceptions. Source: Lean Cuisine

Related tags Nutrition

In a dramatic rebranding, Lean Cuisine ditches the “antiquated” idea of dieting to become an advocate for overall healthy lifestyles, and in doing so, is empowering women to change the conversation about weight and value perceptions, according to brand’s marketing director.

“The big headline is that the diet is gone. People are moving away from an approach that a lot of brands, including Lean Cuisine, used to embrace and have success with,”​ Julie Lehman, marketing director for Lean Cuisine, told FoodNavigator-USA. “Diets often involve reducing or eliminating something specific – like fat, carbs or calories. Now, people are eating differently and are more focused on the health attributes of their food, whether it’s organic, gluten-free or high-protein.”

She explained, “That’s why we are ditching the idea of being a diet brand,”​ and “instead, we’re embracing out future as a brand that values wellbeing.”

Lean Cuisine is advancing its new position with an emotional social media campaign called “WeighThis,”​ new meals and a donation to Girls Leadership, an organization that teaches girls the skills to know who they are, what they believe and how to express it.

#WeighThis campaign repositions Lean Cuisine

Lean Cuisine kicked off its #WeighThis campaign last summer with an emotional video that asked real women to step up to a scale, but instead of weighing themselves they were asked to weigh their accomplishments.

Women of all shapes and sizes answered the director’s recommendation to weigh what is important to them by placing on the scale wedding rings, a divorce certificate, a college text book and a young child – all symbols of their strengths and what makes them feel confident.

The video aims “to remind women that life is a journey and that there are good days and bad days, and what really matters are the things that are important to them,”​ said Lehman, adding, “Women are taught to be judgmental of their food choices and we are recommending that they not be so hard on themselves.”

The video also includes women’s reflections on an eye-catching “mural of positivity”​ in Grand Central Station created by artist Annica Lyndenberg. She “brought women’s real accomplishments, successes and proudest moments to life by painting hundreds of bathroom scales that were mounted on a wall,”​ Lehman said.

The Grand Central installation video, which was viewed nearly 1,575,000 times as of Jan. 15, generated substation social media buzz – capturing 36,429 engagements on Twitter and 3,247 on Facebook for a total of 39,676 engagements, according to the brand.

The latest extension of the #WeighThis campaign is a diet filter that literally silences or blocks out diet messages on television and online. The filter includes a Google Chrome browser extension that users can download which will place an orange rectangle over “diet”​ and its derivatives when they appear in the browser window. It also includes a 3D-printed hardware device prototype that consumers can connect to their cable or satellite box which scans the closed caption signal for the word “diet”​ and when it is detected mutes the television for a few seconds.

“Women are inundated with ‘diet’ messaging every January. It’s on TV, in the news and in social media, drowning out real conversations that matter. By filtering out ‘diet’ conversations, we’re hoping to enable women to focus on what really matters in their lives,”​ Lehman said.

An obvious added bonus for the brand is that the filter silences advertising for competing weight management brands that have not yet evolved from diet messaging.

As of Jan. 15, the diet filter demo video was viewed 327,204 times and generated 13,291 engagements on Twitter and Facebook – reflecting the extent to which the concept aligns with where consumers are currently.

Lean Cuisine also took the filter a step farther, tying it to a social cause, which have been proven to boost brand’s images and sales. As part of the brands goal to transform the diet conversation into a force for good this January, it made a one-time $25,000 donation to Girls Leadership, which empowers girls to create change in their world.

[Editor's Note: Learn more about how American's view of "dieting"​ is evolving and the marketing opportunities and challenges it is creating at our FREE online Weight Management webinar March 16. Register quickly and easily HERE​.]

weight management logo

New meals meet demand for bold flavors, clean ingredients

As part of Lean Cuisine’s relaunch, the brand is committed to better communicating the quality of its products through its “Freshly Made, Simply Frozen” ​initiative, which includes introducing new meals, reformulating others and re-categorizing the options to better meet how consumers think about food, Lehman said.

“Women’s nutritional needs are often overlooked – but the truth is, women’s needs are unique. Our nutritionists study women’s nutritional needs firsthand so that they can infuse what we learn right into our food,”​ she explained. This means meeting consumers’ changing demands by reducing sodium, including more varieties with vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, she added.

The brand introduced 12 new recipes and reformulated 12 existing recipes to better align with these demands and the flavors that people want. Additionally, the recipes are now organized into four key categories that better align with how and when people eat, including:

  • Marketplace – “For times when women seek modern foods and chef-inspired offerings, such as Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese made with pasta, organic butter and no GMOs,” ​Lehman said.
  • Craveables – Pub-fare inspired foods that are high in protein, indulgent and casual, such as Traditional Pepperoni Pizza.
  • Comfort – These dishes recall home-cooked flavors, such as Cheddar Bacon Chicken and Chicken in Sweet BBQ Sauce.
  • Favorites – A category that likely needs no explanation and includes classics like Spaghetti with Meatballs.

A key element of the new and reformulated meals is offering healthier options that still taste great, Lehman said.

She explained: “We constantly review our product range across Nestlé to improve taste while enhancing nutritional value using a test called 60/40+,”​ which ensures at least 60 out of 100 people prefer ​the Nestlé product over the competitor’s. 

Positive results

The much-need makeover has helped Lean Cuisine turn its fortunes around.

Lehman reports Neilsen data shows Nestlé’s line of frozen nutrition products sold better than its competitors from May 2015 through the end of the year. Specifically, she said, Lean Cuisine sales rose by 4%, while the category itself was down 0.6%.

The uptick follows a two year drop of 20% to about $800 million, according to Bloomberg reports. The decline is attributed not only to consumers’ changing view of diet foods, but also processed and frozen foods – favoring instead fresh options.

Reflecting on the changes and their successes so far, Lean Cuisine will continue to evolve with consumers, Lehman said, adding, “This is an ongoing journey.” ​ 


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Amazing...Well done. The new Lean Cuisine

Posted by Mark Hannay,

I loved the video very emotional. Had the Orange Chicken today for lunch from Lean Cuisine. Was surprized it was 310 calories. I remember when Lean Cusine was launched in 1981. It was less than 300 calories and sold by the case day one. The retails were $1.49 and had 10 flavors. Past Frozen Food Buyer @ Ralphs in LA.

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Posted by Andy Gilson,

This is pathetic. There is nothing healthy about Lean Cuisine. Nothing at all.

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