Weight Watchers Losing Ground to mHealth

Weight Watchers has lost a quarter of its market value over the last six months and, on Friday, lost its CEO — all presumably due to mHealth trends that were leaving Weight Watchers behind. Will Weight Watchers join Slim-Fast and Ayds in the dustbin of weight management history? Or will the brand enjoy the kind of resurgence that NutriSystem is experiencing?

On Friday, Weight Watchers stock price dropped 19% with the announcement of disappointing sales results because of declines in their core business of meetings and memberships. The primary driver, said the company, was the impact of free mobile applications and electronic activity monitors, such as the Fit Bit and the Body Media monitoring devices.

Noted Obesity Expert Gary Foster Appointed

Weight Watchers has been quick to make changes with a new CEO appointed Friday and this week the announcement of Gary Foster’s appointment to share the role of Chief Scientific Officer with Karen Miller-Kovach. Said the new CEO, Jim Chambers:

Dr. Foster is highly regarded in the scientific community for his research on the prevention and treatment of obesity and his expertise in behavior change. The addition of Dr. Foster to our dedicated team of science and nutrition experts demonstrates our continued commitment to an evidence-based approach to weight loss as well as our strategic focus on growth by expanding our proven approach within the healthcare marketplace.

Foster is a past president of the Obesity Society and an expert in obesity treatment, including behavioral support programs and mHealth applications for weight management.

It’s worth noting that NutriSystem went through similar difficulties in 2011 and 2012, replacing their CEO in late 2012. And the changes seem to be working. Results are improving and their stock is up 39% over the last six months.

In contrast, two other venerable brands — Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast — are still struggling. Clearly, changes are afoot in how people deal with health, weight, and obesity. Policy changes will continue having a big impact.

Those who adapt will prosper. Others will fail.

Click here to read more about Foster’s appointment at Weight Watchers, click here and here to read about challenges facing Weight Watchers, click here to read about the struggles of Slim-Fast, and click here to read about the improving fortunes of NutriSystem.

Portrait of a Young Girl, after Agnolo Bronzino, image © Mike Licht / flickr

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