The outgoing boss of Glanbia has given mixed signals over the future, and potential disposal, of the SlimFast weight-loss brand amid waning consumer appetite.
SlimFast sits within the Glanbia Performance Nutrition (GPN) business division, which saw first-half volumes decline 7.5% “largely driven” by the dietary brand, the Dublin-headquartered company noted in its results last week.
At the same time, Glanbia announced the departure of managing director Siobhán Talbot, who retires from the business in January. It remains to be seen how committed her replacement – current GPN CEO Hugh McGuire – will be to SlimFast after the company reiterated the “challenges” in the dietary category.
SlimFast has failed to respond to a brand “refresh” and investment, Talbot said in last week’s results presentation with analysts, noting it had “not regained the anticipated momentum”.
Asked directly whether SlimFast might be a candidate for disposal, she was non-committal in her comments, preferring to highlight how Glanbia’s Optimum Nutrition brand of protein powders and supplements was a key priority as the line notched up $1bn in annualised sales in the half to 1 July.
“There’s no doubt that there is some disappointment across all of us as a team in terms of where SlimFast is sitting,” she responded. “I think if you stand over all, where we see ’23 ending in truth is probably what you’re seeing in the first half being repeated for the second half – you’re probably going to be in that 30% decline for the full year.”
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Talbot added: “Our focus now as we look forward beyond that is very much back to that core. We know we have a strong proposition in that high protein, low-carb, ready-to-drink and meal replacement shakes. We also know that consumers want help on their weight-management journey, and we all know indeed that weight management remains a clear focus for many consumers.
“Navigating the short term, and I would call it short term in SlimFast, in terms of the category challenges, but believe that the brand will rebase and drive forward beyond that, but we’ll stabilise it first.”
Optimum Nutrition is “our big brand”, she emphasised, calling the $1bn in annualised sales a “milestone”.
Talbot said US retailers are reducing shelf space in the weight-loss category in the “short term” which will likely hit distribution for SlimFast into the next financial year.
She added: “Undoubtedly, weight management remains a key focus for consumers in the US. And given this, we will navigate the current category dynamics by refocusing our efforts and rebasing our investment back to those core meal replacement ready-to-drinks and powder shakes.
“The growth of brands such as Optimum Nutrition and Isopure, will, we believe, continue to drive sustained growth for the group.”