Friday, October 13, 2006

Heimowitz: Atkins Nutritionals A 'Much Stronger Company' Post-Bankruptcy

There has been a sudden resurgence in the popularity of Atkins Advantage bars lately as these products have risen back to the top of the bestsellers list at the popular online low-carb retailer, Two years ago that was the norm.

Last month, I blogged about Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. being up for sale based on some information provided to me by a reliable source. This person was concerned that the namesake company for the Atkins diet was finally being forced out of business just two years after sitting on top of the diet world as the top dog in the industry.

However, not long after that, I heard from Atkins Nutritionals spokeswoman Colette Heimowitz who shared quite candidly with me that the company is not going out of business and that they are simply going through a transitionary period following their post-bankruptcy experience. Heimowitz said she'd like to share with my readers what is really happening behind-the-scenes at Atkins Nutritionals and agreed to be interview with me today.

1. I'm pleased to introduce to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog a woman named Colette Heimowitz who currently serves as the Vice-President of Nutrition Communication and Education at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. Most people are under the mistaken notion that the Atkins company is all but dead because of the bankruptcy last year and with the elimination of most of the products that used to be available from Atkins Nutritionals. But nothing could be further from the truth. Tell us what's going on at your company right now and where you see it headed.

Since we emerged from bankruptcy in early January, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. (ANI) has successfully improved its financial position and operational results and has become a much stronger company. We quickly realized that our nutrition bars and shakes are relevant to the broad group of healthy, active men and women who are looking for a nutrition advantage. We know that people are more educated than ever about nutrition, and they demand that products be truly good for them (and good-tasting!).

Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes have better nutrition and better taste than other products in the marketplace--higher protein, higher fiber, vitamins and minerals, lower sugar and no trans fats. And, we’ve worked really hard to make our products taste even better--as of April of this year, all of our bars have a better taste, texture and are consistently fresh.

Moving forward, we will continue to launch innovative products based on our philosophy of creating great-tasting products with great nutrition.

2. After the bankruptcy hit the news in August 2005, the media and anti-Atkins people were overjoyed and felt a sense of relief that the low-carb "fad" had finally passed. How did the aftermath of your bankruptcy change the marketing strategy for Atkins Nutritionals and does the company still believe people following the low-carb lifestyle are their primary consumer?

We’ve evolved our marketing strategy to meet the evolving needs of people. As you know, Atkins Advantage products were originally developed with the nutritional principles of the Atkins Nutritional Approach at their foundation. What’s changed is that controlling carbs has become mainstream behavior. It is now on the “list of what’s healthy” along with protein, fiber, low sugar, vitamins and minerals, and no trans fats.

Our nutritional approach is rooted in common sense and as a result, we have a loyal group of consumers. We’ve been very lucky--and we love our low-carb customers!

That said, we know that we can appeal to a much broader group of healthy, active men and women, so we have focused our marketing communication on the nutrition and taste advantage of our products. We want to continue educating consumers about the benefits of protein, fiber and low sugar.

3. The Atkins products are still very popular among low-carbers because they are high-quality foods filled with lots of essential nutrients without the unnecessary sugars and other carbohydrates your body doesn't need. In fact, some of the products have been reformulated to provide a better-tasting product while still upholding the reputation that the Atkins name has become known for. How has that affected the sales of your bars and shakes?

We know how lucky we are to have such loyal consumers and we work very hard to meet their needs!

Again, we believe we have the best products to meet the nutrition needs of healthy, active men and women, and we will continue to invest in educating people about the nutrition and taste advantage of our bars and shakes because we know they are truly better for healthy, active men and women.

To make sure we are delivering our products to our dedicated customers, we’ve maintained strong relationships with our retailers through our improved operations and service levels (our operations are stronger, faster and more flexible). In addition, our products continue to perform well on retail shelves versus the competition.

For instance, ANI has created one of the top 10 selling nutrition bars on the market today--the Atkins Advantage® Chocolate Peanut Butter bar. We’ve also had an extremely positive response from customers to our new Advantage Caramel bars--Caramel Cookie Dough, Caramel Fudge Brownie, Caramel Double Chocolate Crunch and Caramel Chocolate Peanut Nougat. Our product development team is thrilled!

4. You can't help but notice the absence of the phrase "low-carb" on the Atkins products anymore. Did your company feel the use of that phrase was more a negative and thus chose to highlight the "high-protein" and "low-sugar" aspects more prominently instead? Or is it assumed now that the Atkins name is synonymous with low-carb so adding that would be redundant?

We value our controlled-carbohydrate heritage, but it is only one part of leading a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Reducing carbohydrates is a mainstream nutrition benefit. It is now on the list of “what’s nutritious,” along with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, low sugar, and no trans fats. We felt it was important that consumers become aware of the excellent bundle of benefits Atkins Advantage provides (high protein, high fiber, low sugar and no trans fats) – so we’ve focused on this “new news” (since Atkins Advantage is already known for being a controlled-carb product!).

Among nutrition bars and shake consumers, the Atkins Advantage brand has high trust levels because it is considered to be a high-quality product (77% of people agree) that helps them to be healthy (91% agree).

5. Speaking of protein, there has been a lot of news out this year regarding protein, including a study that found higher consumption of protein releases an anti-hunger hormone to help people lose weight. With a whopping 19g protein in an Atkins Advantage bar, how does this stack up against your business competitors?

Since 1998, Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes have provided more protein than other top selling nutrition bars. If you compare an Atkins Advantage bar versus our competitor's products, you will see that with 19g of protein our bars have a protein advantage and will provide you with more energy for your body. Plus, protein builds and repairs muscles and bones on a daily basis, while boosting your metabolism.

Slim Fast Optima Chocolate Cookie Dough bar: 8g protein
Power Bar Performance Chocolate bar: 10g protein
Luna Nutz Over Chocolate bar: 10g protein
Clif Crunchy Peanut Butter bar: 12g protein
Lärabar Banana Cookie bar: 6g protein

6. Sugar is also a big concern for people who are livin' la vida low-carb. Hidden sugars, added sugars, and even sugars in so-called healthy foods are keeping most people from losing weight and getting healthy. How do Atkins products compare to the competition regarding sugar?

When you look at comparisons of other nutrition bars available on the market it begs the question: are nutrition bars a healthy snack or a heavy dose of sugar?

Every nutrition bar in the $2 billion nutrition bar/shake market claims to be healthy, but not all brands deliver on that promise. Many are loaded with more sugar than a donut or cupcake.

If you look at the amount of sugar in some of the most successful nutrition bars on the market, you can see for yourself that with 1g of sugar, Atkins Advantage bars offer consumers a great-tasting product with the least amount of sugar.

Slim Fast Optima Chocolate Cookie Dough bar: 15g sugar
Power Bar Performance Chocolate bar: 18g sugar
Luna Nutz Over Chocolate bar: 8g sugar
Clif Crunchy Peanut Butter bar: 18g sugar
Lärabar Banana Cookie bar: 19g sugar

7. Fiber is another big part of a healthy lifestyle that people seem to have trouble getting into their diet. What role can Atkins products play in helping people get more of this important ingredient into their diet?

Fiber makes you feel full and satisfied longer. Recommended intake is 30g per day, however, on average, Americans consume only half of the minimum daily intake of fiber. To consume 10g of fiber, you would need to eat nine servings of broccoli or nine slices of whole wheat bread. An Atkins Advantage bar has between 5g and 10g of fiber per bar. Just one of our bars can provide up to a third of what you need in a day!

If you look at the amount of fiber in some of the most successful nutrition bars on the market, you can see that they don’t compare to Atkins Advantage:

Slim Fast Optima Chocolate Cookie Dough bar: 2g fiber
Power Bar Performance Chocolate bar: 3g fiber
Luna Nutz Over Chocolate bar: 3g fiber
Clif Crunchy Peanut Butter bar: 5g fiber
Lärabar Banana Cookie bar: 5g fiber

8. A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of your customers aren't actually following any specific diet plan, but rather they are just wanting to eat healthy, nutritious products. Another survey this year found that a large segment of the population is following a lower-carb or at the very least a carb-conscious plan for maintaining their weight and health as well. Talk about why Atkins products are a healthier option for consumers than the other "health" products on the market today.

Since 1998, Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes have provided more protein, more fiber, and less sugar than other top-selling nutrition products. At ANI, we care about the food we eat--so we care about the food we make! We don’t think that any other portable nutrition product on the market can compare to our nutrition and taste advantage.

A typical Atkins Advantage bar has as much protein as a turkey and swiss sandwich and significantly more fiber than two slices of whole wheat bread. Moreover, a typical Atkins Advantage bar offers 19 essential vitamins and minerals, including as much calcium as a glass of milk, as much vitamin C as a glass of orange juice (without the added sugar), low sugar content, and no trans fats.

In addition, all Atkins Advantage bars and shakes rank low on the Glycemic Index (GI). The GI measures how fast a food affects blood sugar levels. The benefits include sustained energy levels, appetite control, assistance with weight loss, reduced body fat, and reduction in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A low GI also can help prevent premature aging and wrinkles as researchers have suggested that spikes in blood sugar can accelerate the aging process.

9. Despite the difficulties that Atkins Nutritionals has been through over the past couple of years, your products are still available in the major stores, including Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Walgreen's, GNC, Trader Joe's, and more. How have you been able to overcome the negative tidal wave against livin' la vida low-carb and rise above the criticism? What steps are being taken by the company to continue this trend of success?

In the United States today, the Atkins brand has approximately 84% awareness, and research shows we have an opportunity to build a strong brand that supports long-term health and wellness. The Atkins Advantage products are top-selling products in their categories because they support a well-balanced nutritional approach with products that have a nutrition and taste advantage.

We also know that people are taking a much more personalized approach as they develop their nutritional approach by taking bits and pieces from different diets and nutritional philosophies to develop a lifestyle that best fits their individual needs. Our products meet their needs better than other nutrition products available--by providing the optimal mix of nutrition: more protein, more fiber, less sugar, no trans fats, and plenty of vitamins and minerals.

10. THANKS so much for joining me at my blog today, Colette. I really think you have helped so many of my readers understand the vision and mission of Atkins Nutritionals. The floor is yours now for any parting comments or words of wisdom to share with my readers.

I just want to add how appreciative we are of the loyalty of our customers and reinforce that our company remains passionate about offering them superior products with the taste and nutrition advantage they have come to expect from Atkins Advantage.

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Blogger Mike said...

I would have to agree that the quality of their bars has been greatly improved lately. The new carmel line is excellent with my favorite being the Chocolate Peanut Nougat.

10/14/2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

I also agree that the quality and taste of Atkins bars has improved lately. The new caramel bars are delicious! I am also very pleased to see ANI leading the charge to get sugar alcohols (maltitol) out of their products. Hoooray! Keep it up guys, and here's hoping your competition follows your lead.

10/16/2006 3:24 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I agree with Mike, all the Atkins bars have improved a lot in both quality and taste. The new caramel line is delicious. I am also pleased to see ANI leading the charge in getting sugar alcohols such as maltitol out of their products. Hooray! Look Ma, no gassy bloat! As a diabetic who is controlling his blood sugar by diet alone, it's a real boon to have these great tasting nutritious products available.

10/16/2006 3:29 AM  
Blogger Liora said...

Atkins "Simply Good" bars are loaded with sugar, honey and agave juice (aka sugar). 27g of carbs with hardly any fiber. This is not the Atkins we know and love.

11/01/2007 6:07 PM  
Blogger JayCee Botha said...

We do not get any ATKINS products in South Africa because the shipping is too expensive for the suppliers.

Any post/article with Colette Heimowitz's name has my immediate attention and total respect.
Would it be possible to scedule another interview with her in 2008 - maybe an update on the ANI and future plans, new ventures etc. ? Or maybe some interview on the new book etc. I really love her dedication and awesome advice she always offers on the Atkins Newsgroups.

12/31/2007 10:23 PM  

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