5 Fading Diet Brands

Deprivation is out, it seems. So some venerable diet brands are scrambling to adapt. These are strong brands linked to old views of dieting and weight loss. But these days, the most vibrant brands have more to do with fitness, nutrition, and health. These five are under pressure.

  1. Lean Cuisine. Born in the low-fat everything age of the 80s, Lean Cuisine sales have dropped by more than 25% over the last five years — 11% last year alone. Consumers find the brand unsatisfying and lacking in health and nutrition value. Lean Cuisine has the wrong brand image for consumers who are valuing fresh, real food that promotes good health.
  2. Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi. Both of these leading brands of diet soda saw sales drop by nearly 7% last year. The companies ascribe it to irrational consumer fear of artificial sweeteners and so are working on alternatives sweetened with low-calorie natural alternatives. This slide will be a tough one to reverse, given the image problem of fizzy drinks.
  3. Special K.  This archetype of diet cereals dates back to 1956. But the aura of dieting from the Mad-Men era is a heavy weight on this brand, with sales slipping 7% over the last two years. The brand is still struggling, despite new hot cereal extensions with healthy grains like quinoa and barley. It looks like Quaker did a better job branding their oats as wholesome and healthful.
  4. Weight Watchers. Some analysts think that Weight Watchers is in the midst of a turnaround with renewed innovation and consumer engagement. Others remain skeptical. Regardless, it’s clear that this leading brand in weight management suffered from changing consumer preferences and intense competition of fitness and diet monitoring technology.
  5. Slimfast. Since Unilever bought the Slimfast brand in 2000 for $2.3 billion, sales have slipped by 34% and Unilever appears to have given up on it. The very soul of this brand runs counter to emerging consumer values for a sustainable diet of healthful, real food.

While deprivation is a poor strategy for a long-term healthy weight, rationalizing excessive consumption of healthy-halo foods is no better. Perhaps consumers are finding a more sustainable third way.

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Diet Soda Caps, photograph © Roadsidepictures / flickr

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