Atkins seeking healthy rise out of low-carb ashes

Atkins Nutritionals may have followed in the wake of its UK subsidiary by filing for bankruptcy after incurring losses of $340 million in 2004, but the brand most responsible for popularising low-carb dieting intends to soldier on, albeit with a different focus.

?Atkins Lifestyle? and other low-carb variants took off in the US and other markets between 2002 and 2004, but consumers shunned the diet as quickly as they had been turned onto it in the second part of last year, consigning it to the litany of fad diets that preceeded it. Atkins wasn?t the only casualty — a host of low-carb start-ups have folded while many big food low-carb lines have been curtailed or discontinued.

Undeterred, Atkins is looking to the future in a recast role beyond the low-carb niche it worked so hard to establish. ?Our focus is on better food, better nutrition,? Atkins marketing director Beth Neumann told Progressive Grocer. ?Everything done has made us faster, more flexible and stronger.?

While Atkins products remain in 30,000 stores in the US, Atkins is revamping its packaging and launching a marketing campaign aimed at the health and wellness sector. ?Superior nutrition? will be the basis of the campaign, an acknowledgement that Atkins products compete against all nutrition bars, shakes and other products and not just those that claim to be low carb. It expects its new products to be on shelves by the new year.

It was not such a big leap for Atkins to reinvent itself as a health food purveyor, Neumann noted, as Atkins products were high in protein, contained no added sugar or sugar alcohols, and boasted a low-glycaemic index.

Tom Vierhile, executive editor at New York-based market researcher, Productscan, said Atkins faced a mighty challenge. ?The brand is so closely affiliated with the low-carb trend — there is so much baggage there — that I don?t know if they will be able to change people?s perception of them,? he told FF&N. ?People associate them with low carb and, unfortunately for them, with failure. They would have to downsize considerably to survive.?

Atkins said it had reduced its range by about half to concentrate on core products such as nutrition bars, shakes, cereals and confectionery, and was exploring the potential of ?real food? products such as granola and trail mixes.

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