'Cookie Diet' Coming to Costco

Smart for Life Meal-Replacement Products Will Be Sold On Retailer's Website

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The "cookie diet" is about to hit Costco.
Diet company Smart for Life will begin selling its products on Costco's website this week.
Diet company Smart for Life will begin selling its products on Costco's website this week.

Smart for Life, a diet company, will begin selling its products on the big-box retailer's website this week. Cookie dieters replace breakfast, lunch and snacks with approximately six cookies, totaling about 600 calories, and then eat a light dinner. They're expected to lose between 10 and 15 pounds a month.

Six-year-old Smart for Life posted $35 million in sales last year. Smart for Life founder Dr. Sasson Moulavi expects to grow that number between 25% and 45% in the next 12 months, with Costco accounting for much of the bump. To date, Smart for Life products have been sold exclusively in the company's 40 U.S. clinics and at SmartForLife.com.

Costco will handle
Smart for Life currently spends about $2 million a year in advertising, via agency CMedia, Philadelphia. Mr. Moulavi is letting Costco handle his products' promotion on the retailer's website. The company's first TV spot, by its previous agency, Omnicom Group's Zimmerman, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., focused on weight-loss success stories.

These days, Mr. Moulavi is also pitching his products as a way to save about $8 a day in food costs. "People are looking for ways to save money," he said. "We replace breakfast, lunch and snacks at about $7 to $8 dollars a day less than what most people are spending on food."

This may be the way to go, as the NPD Group reported today that adults younger than 45 are less likely to be on a diet than they were a year ago. The steepest drop is among 18- to 34-year-olds, of whom less than 10% are on diets for the first time since NPD began following the trends in 1991.

Mr. Moulavi admits that his cookies are an "acquired taste," because they're high in fiber and lower in sugar than the average dessert. They also contain protein, whole grain, fruit and vegetables.

Not so sweet
"In North America we've been told that everything has to be really sweet for it to taste good," he said. "Our cookies are not that sweet. At first people say it's not that great but within three to four days the threshold for sweetness normalizes and they say, 'This is just right.'"

He added that cookie dieters get used to smaller blood sugar spikes while dieting, so they're less likely to go back to products with high-fructose corn syrup when they finish the program. The cookies also teach portion control. "Once they get off the program, they eat smaller meals," Mr. Moulavi said.

It doesn't always work, said Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. While people do lose weight on meal replacement diets, most gain it back upon returning to regular meals.

"It doesn't teach more sensible eating that prevents you from getting back to where you were," Ms. Gerbstadt said. "When you choose to go back to eating regular meals, restaurants, parties and occasions like that really throw people off. You can't just eat a cookie or a bar when you're at a friend's house for dinner."

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