Not surprisingly, senior brand director Sarah Lombard believes the answer is yes, while the latest ad (‘Same Difference’) in a new series with the ‘deliciously doable’ tagline, playfully embraces – rather than repudiates - the ‘80s schtick, which is not actually seen as a negative, claims Lombard.
“What we've seen in research is that SlimFast is seen as a very positive brand. There's no negative sentiment around SlimFast as a whole. People remember those [SlimFast] ads [from the 1980s] so it's kind of a really cool way to break through in today's media.”
Meanwhile, if dieting is a dirty word, a large percentage of consumers still want to lose or maintain weight, and a brand that is provably able to help people achieve that is just as relevant in 2022 as it was in 1982, points out Lombard, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after launching a new intermittent fasting line, a packaging refresh set to roll out in the New Year that features real food photography, and a new marketing campaign (featuring the above ad) running on network TV, streaming services and social media channels.
“The fact that the brand has been around for that long [SlimFast was launched in 1977 as a product line of the Thompson Medical Company], shows that it works and that the products have stood the test of time.
“What's maybe happened over time is the brand just hasn't been seen as relevant to younger consumers or today's modern consumer, so our job is to showcase to consumers that this is a trusted brand that's been around for over 40 years, with 98% brand awareness, which is huge, and it continuously evolves.”
SlimFast was once the key player in the weight loss category with CNN reporting that revenues in 1999 had topped $611m, but it endured a precipitous slide under the ownership of Unilever, which bought the brand in 2000. After 14 years of sliding sales, Unilever unloaded it for an undisclosed sum to Kainos Capital, which went on to sell it to Glanbia for $350m in 2018 (2017 sales were $212m).
So how is it doing today?
"While we don’t disclose financial data,” said Lombard, “SlimFast is outperforming original projections since Glanbia purchased the brand in 2018. With the latest launches and the new campaign, we expect to position the brand for a return to growth in 2023.”
‘SlimFast is outperforming original projections since Glanbia purchased the brand in 2018’
She added: “Americans are looking to lose weight, that's still a top need for folks, but we're looking to make sure that SlimFast comes across with the new campaign as an approachable brand that can help you meet you where you're at on your journey, so it’s not just about endpoints. SlimFast has amazing products that can fit into your life to help you with any of those weight management needs,
“The SlimFast plan [replace two meals with SlimFast products and have a ‘proper’ meal in the evening] is very fundamental to SlimFast and we have clinically proven results; but today’s consumers want more flexibility, they want to feel empowered, and they want more customized solutions for whatever diet they follow [low carb, keto, high-protein, intermittent fasting (IF)]. A lot of consumers want to do their own DIY diet, and we want to make sure that SlimFast appeals to those consumers as well, and the new intermittent fasting launch is a great example of that."
Intermittent fasting line, keto products, a new look and new ads
So what’s new?
A lot, says Lombard, who has just launched what she claims is the “first nationally distributed intermittent fasting product line,” which features a range of protein shake mixes, hydrating electrolyte drink mixes, and complete meal bars designed to support specific phases or solve certain pain points of the IF diet, whether it's to help curb hunger, offer nutrients, or provide energy.
The Shake Mixes contain a slow digesting protein blend to help IF dieters prepare for fasting by offering extended satiety; the Complete Meal Bar provides key nutrients and protein to ensure users break their fast in an optimal and strategic way; and the Hydration Supplement Drink Mix includes 100mg of caffeine help IF dieters stay hydrated, energized and manage hunger.
“One of our retail customers has adopted a new merchandising approach for our intermittent fasting line,” added Lombard. “Not only does the line have high visibility due to its eye-level shelf placement, but the complete line of drink mixes, shake mixes and snack bars are offered side-by-side – creating a brand block in the aisle.
“This is a win for the brand as typically each product is merchandised by its corresponding category in separate sections of the shelf.”
Who buys SlimFast products?
So who buys SlimFast products these days?
There’s clearly a slant towards women (the brand's homepage features a line of women describing their success following the SlimFast plan), although a “third ad that will roll out in December into January to reach that peak New Year New timeframe has a male as the lead character,” noted Lombard, who said SlimFast is a weight loss and weight management brand, as distinct from say, sports and performance nutrition.
“Right now, most of the major retailers have a weight management section and then a sports nutrition section, which is more around muscle building and recovery [where Glanbia plays with its Optimum Nutrition brand]."
So while a weight management consumer and a sports nutrition consumer might both be looking for protein, for example, “in addition [the weight management consumer might be looking for] added vitamin and minerals, or fiber for satiety, and Glanbia has the opportunity to serve different products to the different consumer need states," she added.
Coffee house on-trend flavors
While you could argue that the SlimFast brand remains something of an ‘80s throwback when it comes to some of its core product formulations, with long lists of ingredients including artificial flavors and sweeteners, it is laser-focused on developing products that meet consumers’ nutritional needs and taste incredible, said Lombard.
“We have coffee house on-trend flavors like Mocha cappuccino and caramel latte, as consumers are looking for permissible options so they don't break their diet.”
As for new shoppers, the keto and intermittent fasting products are designed to broader the consumer base, she said. “The keto products [launched in 2019] did bring in a lot of incremental consumers and they appeal to men and women.”