The Atkins Diet Fades Taking Company with It

Discussion
Aug 01, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


The company founded by Dr. Robert Atkins, Atkins Nutritionals, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it struggles to redefine itself in an era when consumers are looking for other ways to lose weight other than following a low-carbohydrate diet regimen.


Michael Steib, a consumer-goods analyst for Morgan Stanley told Bloomberg, “The low-carb fad has gone. Dieting habits are very short-lived. It came very quickly and disappeared very quickly.”


Atkins, wrote its chief restructuring officer Rebecca Roof, was also hurt when “Mainstream companies such as Unilever, Kraft, and General Mills broke into the controlled-carbohydrate market in 2004 with well-funded, aggressive product launches.”


Moderator’s Comment: What do you see happening in the low-carb area? Why did the diet regimen popularized by Dr.
Atkins and others run out of steam? Will manufacturers and retailers repositioning (repackaging) low-carb items be enough to get sales of these products moving upward again?


– George Anderson – Moderator

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14 Comments on "The Atkins Diet Fades Taking Company with It"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

I know I was not the only one who had absolutely no confidence in this fad being anything more than shortlived – but many of the big guys who jumped on the bandwagon AFTER the first movers tried to do their stuff deliberately and sensibly positioned their products to make them easy to shift into some new fad/diet/health category as soon as they had to. For example – Hain Celestial introduced its Carb Fit range of “all natural low-carb foods” into existing brands to “help communicate the Carb Fit product value and taste to consumers currently purchasing these national natural brands”. Sure they did. Or to prepare for quietly re-naming them when the consumer fixation with low-carb diets shifted from fad to fade.

Robert Liljenwall
Guest
Robert Liljenwall
15 years 7 months ago
Atkins was bound to fail as more intelligent, scientific-based programs, such as the Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears and the South Beach Diet, became popular. The market is huge….and it is interesting to talk with diet company executives and find out what “they” do to keep weight off. The Zone people regard the South Beach Diet, owned by the Prevention Magazine folks….as two weeks on Atkins, then the Zone. Having experienced all of them, I have found the Zone Diet (out of Searslabs.com) to be the most enduring program that is based on true science. Dr. Sears is a trained biochemist who studied blood lipids for years and knows how it all works. Unfortunately, Dr. Sears was not the greatest business person and lost out on the Balance Bar phenomenon (which he created) and Zone Perfect (the company he started and lost to an investor). ZonePerfect has been a spectacular retail success…having started from zero and selling for $165 million some eight years later…. Science is key in this arena….and when all the Harvard… Read more »
Joe Leathers
Guest
Joe Leathers
15 years 7 months ago

When Atkins first hit the scene, I thought WOW – eat meat and lose weight. But after a while, I even got sick of eating meat and no bread, pasta, pizza etc. As a couple of panelists said, moderation is the key. I just wish I wouldn’t have lost the key to losing weight – so guess I will just continue to eat meat and enjoy life.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 7 months ago

Not so fast, folks. Weight Watchers began as a “fad” diet and is now a mainstream menu option, and Jenny Craig is doing just fine, thank you very much. Instead of labeling all fad diets as doomed to failure, we should be examining why some actually succeed.

People generally believe that weight-loss diets are complex endeavors, despite periodic fad diets that claim there is a single, simple key to losing weight. If it were simple, no one would be overweight. Additionally, dieters are folks who tend to indulge themselves when they’re alone with no one looking over their shoulder.

Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig admit that dieting is complex, but simplify it by providing food that has been prepared to follow widely-accepted dieting rules. Further, they provide camaraderie and personal contact to remind dieters that they are not in this alone, to warn them about private indulging, and to celebrate their weight loss victories.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

It’ll never come back to nearly what it was, but its influence will remain, a la low-fat. Pricing got out of control on this fad, and I think retailers and manufacturers both may have learned a lesson here, as well, in that there IS a ceiling on what people will spend for “healthy” foods.

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
15 years 7 months ago

The low-carb diet as presented by Atkins was not a sustainable diet, which is a major reason for running out of steam. Initially, people who tried it lost weight, then weight loss became more difficult. It was expensive. It went against much of the general wisdom on healthful eating. And had not so nice side effects if followed for a long period of time. So people tried it and moved on…probably to the next diet.

I do agree with Anna; the diet has penetrated our culture and, therefore, we evaluate carbs a bit differently than before. Before the Atkins rage, there was the hi-carb/low protein rage where people loaded up on pasta. So those manufacturers and retailers that are featuring low-carb products have a market…

Too bad we can not seem to feature lifestyle balance…in food…in exercise…which is more sustainable. And marketable.

William martin
Guest
William martin
15 years 7 months ago

This is the 3rd or 4th incarnation of the Atkins diet. It will remain around because it works for those willing to stick with it. The problem with this company must be that, instead of realizing they were riding a hot fad, they created way too much infrastructure…and planned as though they were bullet proof and that the company would double every couple of years.

Probably hired a bunch of large company CPG veterans (like me) who hadn’t learned the lessons of small companies…which are simply stated…stay lean and mean and take the money and run!

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 7 months ago
With enough marketing and publicity, anyone can influence pretty well any consumer behavior – for a while. That’s why we flit from thing to thing, food to food, fashion to fashion. What you can count on, however, is that while they will experiment, people always default to their original mind-set. In the Atkins case, there was just too much conflict over medical advice, including the fact that your brain needs carbs to function properly. Eating bacon, eggs and butter to lose weight runs against the mental frames most of us have conditioned in our minds. Most of us have a mental frame about eating that says “everything in moderation.” Atkins tried to fight that with publicity and, over the long haul, that just won’t work. Here’s the rule, no matter what change you want to see: If you want to change people’s behavior, you must first change how they think. And changing how they think is a challenge that’s fought on a sub or non-conscious level, not a conscious one. Johns Hopkins University found that… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 7 months ago

Gimmicks and human-improvement promises are not necessarily the way to business solutions or sustained success. When people are encouraged, or feel intimated, to go on a strict regimen, they can feel constrained and eventually imprisoned. That can be a strain. If the reward for accepting that personalized status doesn’t materialize in due time, people tire of it and its highly-desired promise and then abort. That’s what happened to the devotees of the highly-promoted Atkins diet as other acceptable nutritional alternatives were presented to them.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Diets, like nutraceuticals, largely come and go. They are fad-based. The weight problem is hard to cure, since there is temptation at every meal and often in between. An alcoholic can stop drinking completely, but a woman on a diet cannot stop eating completely, so her will is tempted constantly.

A sad web site would list all the diet best selling books since 1950 and the celebrities who endorsed the diets. Perhaps a computer program could be written that would create diets not publicized yet, by subtracting all major foods and formulas already used by diet plans of the past.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 7 months ago

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cheeseburgers. And, for me, Atkins was a particularly loathsome diet craze — because since I was a child, I’ve been known to eat sugar out of the sugar jar.

But I am stifling the urge to break into a chorus of “Ding dong the Witch is dead.” She’s not dead. Remember the low-fat craze of the late 80s and early 90s? It raised our consciousness of fat in our diets. No one has ever been able to look at a cheeseburger and fries the same way. I think Atkins will have the same effect. It has made us aware that sugar and highly processed foods aren’t so great, and that whole grains and lean protein have a central place in a healthy diet. I don’t think this is a fad that will just fade away. I think it will have a long-term impact on eating habits.

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 7 months ago

Diet fads always crack me up. They’re like get rich quick schemes – they never really work. The only tried and true method is still to follow the basics (which I don’t). Eat right (balancing the 4 basic foods group) and exercise. Even then, you can still get hit by a bus.

People are weak, let’s face it. As much as they try all the diets that fade in and out, there’s nothing that can stop the power of a good cheeseburger.

Dave Wendland
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

A “Fad” is defined as a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal. Certainly the Atkins’ craze had these characteristics. However, despite the flash-in-the-pan, there is a revitalized interest in carbs and their detrimental impact on one’s health. My concern is that, as sales declined, did food/drug stores reduce the size of sections addressing health-conscious products and weight management tools? If so, have patients with diabetes and other health issues found it more difficult to find the products that were helping them control their weight/diet? Now that awareness has been piqued, let’s not forget those who were positively changing their lifestyles.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
15 years 7 months ago

I agree with those who have commented that there is heightened consumer awareness regarding good carbs/bad carbs, and Atkins is largely responsible for that, mainly because they managed to garner the most hype and advertising.

I think Atkins made a big mistake in creating their own brand of Atkins bars, etc. That was over-reaching. Their products occupied some high-traffic end caps in the grocery stores. It was a great display, very visible, but it really didn’t fly off the shelves…especially when other manufacturers joined the bandwagon and produced their own low-carb versions of some of their popular brands, and not as pricey as the Atkins-branded alternatives. Not to mention cereal producers like General Mills, being very vocal about how all their cereals are made with whole grains. I predict that low-carb/good-carb versions of bread, cereal, meals, etc. are here to stay.

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