Weight Loss Centers Firm Up Street Fight

Weight Loss Centers Firm Up

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The weight management industry in the U.S. generated $90B in revenue in 2023. Fed by demand for weight loss drugs (contributing close to $12B in sales), trimming down seems timeless, although brick-and-mortar centers have evolved over the years.

Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 by Jean Nidetch and grew to thousands of locations worldwide. In 2018, the company rebranded to WW International, shifting its focus to broad-based health and wellness rather than just weight loss.

The concept of walk-in and weigh-in centers was impacted by two factors:

  • Technological innovations have made online meetings and food tracking as simple as a few smartphone clicks and virtual support groups. Apps like MyFitnessPal and NOOM emerged and are now part of a $842M industry.
  • The popularity of medical weight loss drugs, also known as GLP-1. These tools created a boom in medically supervised weight loss centers, and physicians saw this opportunity to create brick-and-mortar centers dedicated to helping consumers shed pounds and improve their health.

Weight Watchers saw these opportunities and evolved its business model to make both options available to its prospects.

Franchisees (or prospective franchise managers) have many options for MULO (multi-location) weight loss centers.

IV brands, day spas, and gyms have expanded their offerings to include shots and infusions, counseling programs, and their own range of supplements and foods/beverages to capitalize on consumers’ need to get thinner and healthier.

The consumer need is clear. A whopping 35 percent of people in 22 states are now categorized as obese.

Whether people are simply looking to drop a few pounds before bathing suit season or a vacation, or their health is in danger due to obesity, consumers have more options than ever.

Does the move towards weight loss drugs impact the MULO food industry? Apparently not, according to the U.S. food giants. They are developing plant-based and lower-calorie alternatives that appeal even to people taking GLP-1 drugs.

Walk any C-store (convenience store) or grocery store, and you’ll likely find a wide range of options in that category — including entire aisles dedicated to high-protein/low-carb snack bars and sugar-free and gluten-free alternatives.

However, walk-in centers have clearly suffered over the years. Weight Watchers now only has about 1.5K physical locations, most of which are in New York. Telehealth (which boomed during the pandemic) has become an acceptable option for many consumers, and those people who spend time on social platforms are satisfied with “meeting” with other people who are committed to weight loss.

Although the public weekly weigh-in may be a thing of the past one day, consumers are still committed to getting healthier and trimmer, and new tech-driven solutions and “miracle drugs” are here to stay!

For more insights into trends for MULO businesses, please attend Street Fight LIVE on November 7th in Chicago. (We may even offer some healthy food options!)

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in Inc.com, the New York Times and Forbes.