I thought about titling this post—“Fat and foreign? Let’s make a deal!”—but that seemed a bit too sensational and disrespectful to Monty Sharma, CEO of Atkins Nutritionals, who inspired the thought. In a recent interview for our upcoming issue on the overall nutrition industry, Sharma discussed global obesity rates and how certain countries, unfortunately, present better growth opportunities for Atkins than others.
In 2009, Atkins expanded operations to Spain, Portugal, the Middle East and India. “The reason these countries are important for us,” says Sharma, “is that obesity and diabetes are rampant there.” He pointed to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in and around Dubai as some of the highest incidences of diabetes and obesity in the world. “These countries have serious issues because of food habits,” says Sharma.
International revenue at Atkins is trending toward 15% of total revenue, up from about 5% in the past two years, when Atkins began a reinvention of itself as a weight-management platform far removed from its ‘no-carbs’ origins. Though specific figures remain unspecified—Atkins is privately held by North Castle Partners—Sharma does verify 45% annual growth on the trailing 52 weeks of data. That’s no small feat given the pernicious softness of the U.S. economy.
Looking forward, Sharma sees potential in the Benelux countries, Sweden, Norway, South Africa and Germany. “We will continue to grow internationally in 2010,” says Sharma. “The markets we look at are all very good markets in terms of their obesity.”
A further sobering thought from Sharma that I can’t seem to shake: “The number of people overweight and obese overseas is far greater than that in the U.S. The opportunity overseas is greater, one would argue, than the sales opportunity here in the U.S.” There are too many ways to digest a statement like that in a mere blog post, but let’s just say that the growing trend toward wellness has some big hurdles to overcome far beyond the usual suspects of consumer education, regulatory scrutiny and competitive pressures.
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