SlimFast delves into keto craze; launch signals new day for legacy weight loss brands

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images
SlimFast, a well known diet brand now owned by Glanbia, has launched a new suite of products that capitalize on the keto diet trend. The launch could signal a new day for the once-dominant brand and signals a reinvigoration of legacy weight loss brands.

SlimFast was once the key player in the weight loss category.  But it endured a precipitous slide under the ownership of Unilever.  The multinational food and consumer goods giant bought the brand in 2000 for $2.3 billion. SlimFast at one time reportedly held a 46% share of the diet liquid/powder segment of the weight loss market, and CNN said it had recorded more than $611 million in sales in 1999​.

Weight loss brands unravel

The brand spiraled downward under Unilever’s management.  A number of strategies were tried to reverse the trend​, including changing the product portfolio, launching social media campaigns and returning to a strategy of enlisting supermodel brand spokeswomen, something that had been drastically scaled back under Unilever’s early ownership. After fourteen years of sliding sales, Unilever unloaded the brand for an undisclosed price—one that can be inferred to amount to just pennies on the dollar—to venture capital player Kainos Capital.

The sale came months after the admission of failure of another multinational food giant—Nestle—which bought the weight loss brand Jenny Craig in 2006 for $600 million.  Nestle sold the brand to another private equity firm, North Castle Partners​, in September 2013 for an undisclosed price but one that was surmised to be well less than its original acquisition price.  Jenny Craig under its new leadership has now rebounded to an extent that its new owners are reportedly considering a sale​.

Kainos refurbished the SlimFast brand to a point where it delivered $212 million in net sales in 2017.  In October of last year, Irish dairy and sports nutrition conglomerate Glanbia acquired the brand for $350 million from Kainos​.

Betting on keto

SlimFast photo

The new SlimFast Keto products follow the keto trend with a high fat/medium protein formula.  The products are based medium chain triglycerides derived from coconut and also feature grass fed butter.  The protein is delivered via whey and grass fed collagen. Carbohydrates are kept low with the use of erythritol and stevia as sweeteners.  The line includes bars, shakes and products billed as “fat bombs.”

“We are giving American dieters what they told us they wanted for 2019 —they want a quick, easy and super-convenient way to follow the ketogenic diet,"​ said Doug Reader, SlimFast president.

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