Diet brands switch focus amid slowing sales

Weight Watchers, Special K and Lighterlife are shifting the focus of their January campaigns towards promoting more realistic ways to manage weight loss in a bid to attract new customers, a move that comes as new research reveals that sales across the category are slowing.

Lighterlife hopes its shift in marketing strategy will kickstart growth across the slowing weight management food and drink category.

The diet brands say that to ensure long-term future of the category they must move away from promoting what they claim are traditional “less is more messages” and focus more on encouraging people to improve their mindset towards dieting and food.

Weight Watchers is spearheading this bid through its ‘New Approach’ innovation programme which uses psychology to help members identify practical ways of managing weight loss over the long term.

The initiative is backed by a series of TV adverts starring TV actress Patsy Kensit, BBC news presenter Penny Haslam and Masterchef host Gregg Wallace showcasing the brand’s online tools and mobile apps. Additionally, social, CRM and PR initiatives will be fronted by the brand’s non-celebrity members.

A spokeswoman for Weight Watchers says: “New science reveals that today’s overloaded food environment is one of the most important reasons we tend to over-eat: it’s not all about lack of willpower. Weight Watchers is the first weight loss organisation in the world to use the new breakthrough science of Hedonics and incorporate it into the ProPoints plan.”

Elsewhere, Special K, which repositioned itself as a long-term weight management brand last year, says its tactical push will “focus less on a number and more on the positive feelings women want to gain.” It is running a TV campaign this month to encourage women to “cut out the fat talk” and adopt a more positive attitude towards weight loss as part of a wider £3m marketing push for 2013.

A special event will also be hosted next week (7 January) at Westfield Shopping Centre to recruit several women to star in a giant outdoor ad at the retail park.

For Lighterlife, the brand has pledged to move away from the “big promises” that other diet brands portray in its new year campaigns and be more honest through its messaging.

The marketing drives come as sales of diet food and drinks products in the UK over the past five years has slowed according to a Mintel study of 1500 UK consumers. Sales of diet foods rose by 10 per cent in the five years to the end of 2012 but in real value terms researchers say the value of the market has tumbled by more than a tenth (16 per cent) during this period.

Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel says the “turbulent economic landscape, squeezed disposable incomes and low consumer confidence” have stifled consumer confidence in the market.

Clifford adds: “In order to win consumers’ trust and compete with naturally low-calorie foods it is vital that manufacturers offer consumers greater transparency in terms of their ingredients and what constitutes them being ‘diet.”

There is, however room for growth in the market, according to Mintel. Signatories to the Government’s Responsibility Deal have pledged to cut a collective 5bn calories from the UK’s daily diet by 2010 and this could lead to an influx of low-fat and diet foods.

Diet brands also point to e-commerce and launching more digital products to buck the trend, claiming that the slowed growth is as much to do with the decline in footfall to general retail stores as it is the scepticism some consumers harbour over the healthiness of their products.

A spokeswoman for diet home delivery company Diet Chef, which is running its largest ever tactical campaign in four years this month, says: We started Diet Chef as we felt that consumers were researching dieting online and wanted the convenience of online purchase to complete this loop. We can offer an extensive range of meals (over 100) online and provide personalisation of the dishes that each customer wants – this would be very hard to replicate in a physical retail store.”

The business hopes the campaign will emulate the success it had last year when the brand grew 30 per cent in 2012 and sales increased by 40 per cent in January alone. It is partnering with The Apprentice star Karen Brady to front a series of PR and editorial promotions.

Here is a run down of what to expect from some of the UK’s top diet brands this January:

  • Weight Watchers – is running a cross-platform tactical push to kick off its 2013 marketing activity.
  • Special K – is launching a TV campaign to tie in with its global ‘Gains Day’ pledge – when women around the world are encouraged to declare their gain – later this month (7 January).
  • Jenny Craig – is rolling out a national TV campaign featuring former Spice Girl member Mel B with the tagline “Give Jenny Craig your winter and get summer ready.” The adverts will be supported by digital activity with both elements having a strong focus on behaviour change.
  • Popchips – the low-calorie snack brand is launching an outdoor campaign with the straplines “love. without the handles” and “spare me the guilt chip”.
  • Slim Fast – is running in-store promotions with Asda, Tesco Pharmacy, Boots and Superdrug alongside adverts in OK! Magazine.



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