Weight Watchers is shifting from weight loss to wellness as ‘healthy is the new skinny’


The main philosophy of the Weight Watchers program is to form helpful habits, eating smarter and getting more exercise while providing support.

The core approach of Weight Watchers is to help members in losing weight through healthier eating and exercising. It has no strict diet plans and no food is off limits. Members lose weight when they create a calorie deficit.

Weight Watchers will unveil new branding this year, and has hired a former Unilever executive for a new role

Weight Watchers International Inc. says it will be shifting its focus from weight loss to overall wellness, and it has hired a new executive to help.

More people are joining Weight Watchers for “something more than getting into a size 8,” Chief Executive Mindy Grossman said on the company’s late Tuesday earnings call, according to a FactSet transcript. Rather, people want to feel healthy at any size or weight and are focused on wellness measures like blood pressure and cholesterol count.

“Today, healthy is the new skinny,” she said.

Weight Watchers WTW, +1.70% wants to help customers reach those wellness goals, and plans to unveil new branding in May called the Summer of Impact.

“Our competition is the 90%-plus of people believing they can become healthy or lose weight on their own,” Grossman said. “The world doesn’t need another diet. The world needs a leader in wellness and a brand that can bring wellness to everyone, not just a few.”

The company recently hired its first chief brand officer to help with the task, Gail Tifford, who was previously the head of North American media and global digital media innovation at consumer goods giant Unilever UN, -0.14%

In line with its wellness goals, Weight Watchers is removing artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors and preservatives from products carrying the company’s name. And it has partnered with FreshRealm to create Weight Watchers-branded meal kits and products.

The company will also be focused on connecting with its subscribers, which totaled 3.2 million in the fourth quarter according to the earnings release, whether through digital means or experiences like the Weight Watchers Cruise.

“To be clear, we are still committed to our state-of-the-art weight management approaches, but we believe we can do even more than that,” said Grossman. “The brands of the future have purpose, bring meaning to people, and are integrated through technology into people’s lives.”

In December, Weight Watchers introduced WW Freestyle, a program that added more than 200 foods to its SmartPoints zero-points food system. Some of those items include corn, seafood and non-fat plain yogurt. Previously, only fruits and vegetables qualified for zero points.

Weight Watchers reported earnings per share of 91 cents. Earnings included a 54 cents benefit from the tax overhaul. Revenue totaled $312.5 million for the quarter. The FactSet consensus was for earnings of 31 cents and revenue of $309.0 million.

Weight Watchers shares closed down 3.2% on Wednesday, but are up 253% for the past year. The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.08% is up 11.8% for the last 12 months.

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