Unilever has sold its Slim Fast weight management brand to private equity firm Kainos Capital, but will retain a minority stake in the business.
The deal - terms of which have not been disclosed - follows the recent $2.15bn sale of Unilever's Ragu and Bertolli pasta sauce brands to Mizkan Group, and is "the last step in the portfolio reshaping that we had planned for North America", said Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America.
"This transaction, along with previously announced divestitures, will give us the focus to drive growth behind our core portfolio."
Slim-Fast will become part of Kainos Capital's health-and-wellness portfolio, which includes leading US whey protein manufacturer Milk Specialties Global,nutraceutical ingredients supplier InterHealth Nutraceuticals, and dietary supplement maker Healthy Delights.
Chris Tisi, CEO and founder of Healthy Delights, will become the CEO of Slim-Fast, said Kainos Capital managing partner Andrew Rosen.
"Chris Tisi and his team have decades of experience in the diet and weight management category and are ready to give Slim-Fast the resources and entrepreneurial focus that will drive the brand to new heights."
Are 'dieting' brands like Slim Fast outdated?
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA last year, analysts at Euromonitor and Datamonitor said that while a third of Americans are obese, manufacturers seeking to help them manage their weight are avoiding the word ‘diet’ like the plague and promoting more positive messages about food quality, protein and health and wellness - presenting challenges for traditional weight loss brands such as Slim Fast.
Said Datamonitor innovation insights director Tom Vierhile: “In 2005, we counted 52 new product reports in the food and non-alcohol beverage industry featuring the word ‘diet’. It’s been all downhill since then, with the counts falling to 22 in 2008 and finally to just 8 in 2012.”
Meanwhile, said US analyst Virginia Lee, “The US weight management market is facing increased competition from standard foods that Americans are turning to, to help with weight management.
“For example, Greek yogurt makers have been able to appeal to weight-conscious women by positioning the thick, protein-rich yogurt as offering satiety, while newer products such as Yoplait Greek 100 offer the additional benefit of low calories. Active men also like the high-protein concept of Greek yogurt as it provides fuel for building muscle.
“Snack nuts makers have also benefited by emphasizing the high-protein nature of their products, and manufacturers of snack bars are introducing more high-protein products that blur the line between snack bars and meal replacement products.”
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