Dieting has become a dirty word in food marketing, says Atkins

Ditching the diet? Atkins hires Rob Lowe to spread healthy lifestyle message: ‘A life well lived is not measured in pounds and ounces’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Rob Lowe: ‘I’ve been living Atkins for years… it’s great food that’s rich in healthy protein, and lower in carbs and sugar…’
Rob Lowe: ‘I’ve been living Atkins for years… it’s great food that’s rich in healthy protein, and lower in carbs and sugar…’

Related tags Nutrition

Weight management brand Atkins Nutritionals has deployed movie star Rob Lowe – it’s first male brand ambassador – to front a new campaign focusing on living a healthy lifestyle, rather than ‘dieting,’ as it reaches out to the ‘tens of millions’ of Americans that might enjoy its products, but do not necessarily want to follow a formal diet program.

While more Americans than ever are trying to manage their weight, they are increasingly turned off by some of the rhetoric and imagery traditionally used by weight loss brands, and want something more fun, positive, and sustainable, Atkins​ CMO Scott Parker told FoodNavigator-USA.

“The desire to lose weight is still there, but the terminology around weight management has changed significantly in recent years and that’s been reflected in some of our previous campaigns.

“So for example with our Alyssa Milano campaign, we used terms such as reaching a ‘happy weight,’ but there were no before and after pics, no mention of pounds lost, or ‘dieting,’ ​added Parker, who said Atkins was “around a $450m revenue business that has averaged around 11% annual growth over the last decade​.”

He added: “We broke a lot of the clichés of standardized weight loss commercials and moved to more emotional end benefit as a result of making some relatively simple decisions about what to eat, and that has really reinvigorated the brand growth.”

Programmatic vs self-directed dieters?

He added: “The market for weight loss is bifurcating into what we call programmatic ​[people following a formal diet plan] and self-directed ​[people looking to eat healthily but without following a formal prescriptive plan], and fortunately, both markets are robust and growing, but the language even within the programmatic arena is moving towards a more holistic and sustainable language around weight loss.

“The self-directed group has grown so much that it now reflects about half of the people that buy our products – people that have actually never tried the Atkins approach to lose weight, but are buying our products. There are tens of millions of people out there that are actively trying to reduce their carbs and sugars just to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, and we see this group as a tremendous opportunity for growth.”


‘Rob has been following Atkins principles for decades…’

The new ads (spanning TV, print, digital, PR, and social media) featuring Rob Lowe – who has “never actually lost weight on the Atkins diet,”​ but “has been living Atkins for years”​ in order to maintain a healthy weight and stay energized - take this a step further, he said.

“Rob has been following Atkins principles for decades - high protein, low carbs, low sugar - he used to talk a lot on social media about what a positive effect this has had on his energy and vitality, so we got in contact, and he was extremely excited about the prospect of partnering with us.”

meal kit atkins
Atkins meal kits include a one-week daily meal plan, simplified shopping lists, Atkins products to incorporate into the meal plan, and free tools and support (mobile app, online and call center support).

Choosing a man to front its campaign was also reflective of changing dynamics in the weight management space, said Parker, who said Atkins has also teamed up with Chef’d to develop recipe plans based on Atkins principles and developed its own meal kits combining Atkins branded products and recipes requiring some grocery shopping.

We researched this and found that Rob appealed equally to men and to women across every age range… We used to focus strongly on women, but now actually we are buying media that’s gender neutral, we’re targeting adults aged 25-54.”

Is there still a place for weight management brands?

But as shoppers increasingly ditch formal diets and embrace a more holistic approach to health and wellness featuring more wholesome, minimally processed foods, might they also ditch traditional packaged weight management brands?

While some shoppers might be spurning the ‘weight management’ aisle and looking to mainstream brands such as Chobani (Greek yogurt) or Quaker (oatmeal) to keep hunger pangs at bay, for example, they are still looking for brands specifically designed to help them manage their weight, wherever they are merchandized, said Parker, who noted than Atkins had been cleaning up labels in recent years.

“We encourage people to make their own fresh food with fresh ingredients – but I think especially for certain dayparts – particularly snacks and lunch time - it’s a lot easier to bring an Atkins snack or shake to work than package up some fresh salmon for your 3pm snack – so we provide something that is handy and delicious and convenient.”

As for where best to merchandise Atkins products, he said: “Chain stores are trying different approaches, but I think what we’ll see over time is a merging of some categories such as sports performance, weight control snacking, and nutritional snacking, into a broader wellness category.”

Atkins products include frozen meals, snacks, and shakes...

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