Nutrisystem Taps Retail Market with Walmart Partnership

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Another traditional weight-loss brand is resorting to a radical change in its business model in an effort to avoid extinction by online dieting sites.

Nutrisystem has announced plans to sell a “5-Day Nutrisystem Jumpstart Your Weight Loss Kit” exclusively at 2,000 Walmart stores. It includes 15 entrees plus desserts, a free meal planner and program guide with access to free weight-loss counseling, all for the low, low price of $44.98.

“While there are many weight-loss products in the market, this is really the first of its kind—a true diet jumpstart in a box,” Dawn Zier, Nutrisystem CEO, said in a press release.[more]

The home-delivery-based company did a test of the program at a small number of stores, including packaging featuring Marie Osmond, long-time spokeswoman for the brand. “We’re seeing a lot of repeat business, which is important because people keep coming back week after week tells us that the program is working for them,” Zier said.

Nutrisystem’s announcement follows similarly drastic shifts by Weight Watchers, which is re-fashioning itself as a “lifestyle brand” that extends beyond mere dieting, and Slim-Fast, which is bringing no-holds-barred sex appeal to new advertising for its diet shakes and other foods.

Like those other brands which also have been assailed by free, internet-based dieting advice and community sites, Nutrisystem has been struggling lately. Sales have sunk by 42 percent since 2008, Advertising Age reported. Previous brand overhauls—which have involved a deal to sell prepaid home delivery at Costco, a Nutrisystem Everyday program at Kroger and a general shift away from individual entrees to multimeal plans because of intensified retail competition—have not provided a turnaround.

Zier came to Nutrisystem after a 20-year career at Reader’s Digest Association, another troubled company. Maybe Nutrisystem’s new Walmart menu, featuring items ranging from a cinnamon-bun bar to rotini and meatballs, will be what Zier needs to lead Nutrisystem to a better fate.

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