Bayer takes new tack with diet supplement

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Pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG is introducing a weight-control formula to its One A Day multivitamin brand, launching its first entry in the $1.3 billion diet-supplement industry.

Called Weight Smart, the "all natural" tablets are aimed primarily at women and adults over 30 who want to speed slowing metabolisms to keep their weight in check. Backed by an estimated $25 million integrated campaign breaking Jan. 1 that includes TV, print, coupons and in-store promotion from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Chicago, Bayer is making a metabolism claim rather than promising a smaller waistline, as do many caffeine and ephedra-based products that clog late-night TV. Ephedra has been linked to cardiovascular and other health emergencies.

FTC scrutiny

Just last month, Federal Trade Commission officials urged marketers, industry groups and media to take voluntary action to protect consumers from what it considered a flood of unscrupulous diet claims (AA, Nov. 25).

Bayer claims Weight Smart's active ingredient, epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, a green-tea extract found in many so-called natural supplements, sets it apart. EGCG "is an ingredient well-studied to enhance metabolism," said Michaela Griggs, director of nutrition at Bayer's Consumer Care Business Group.

Ms. Griggs said Bayer considers Weight Smart to be a companion to One A Day and that it is competing in the multivitamin market rather than the weight-loss category.

Weight Smart will be Bayer's biggest rollout under the One A Day brand, though Ms. Griggs would not confirm the $25 million estimate.

The outlay would put Bayer's spending on par with or ahead of the biggest measured-media spenders in the weight-loss category through September, including Unilever's Slim Fast with $20 million; NVE Pharmaceuticals' Stacker 2, with $20 million; and Cytodyne's Xenadrine brand with $22.5 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

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