Sustainable Food and the Weight Management Program Industry: A Comparative Case Study

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Overconsumption of food in the US has led to skyrocketing rates of obesity and the rapid expansion of the diet industry. The demands of the food industry have also aided the creation of an industrialized agricultural system whose practices can lead to a number of environmental and social harms. In response, fast-moving consumer goods companies are acting to ensure they are sourcing foods more sustainably. Governing bodies within the field of nutritional science are also reformulating the disciplines’ core principles to include ecological considerations. Sitting at the intersection between fast moving consumer goods companies and nutrition science is the weight-management industry—a sector that may be uniquely positioned to address both obesity and sustainable food sourcing concerns at once. Three companies were examined in this study: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem. Of these three, Jenny Craig is taking the most action regarding sustainable food sourcing, however, the company is not yet educating the public about their efforts. Overall, all three companies made little to no mention of sustainable food principles on their websites. While incorporation of sustainable foods into companies’ programming could potentially provide clients with greater meal satiety, prolong membership, and capture new market trends, commonly cited barriers included cost considerations, a potentially small niche market, supply availability, lack of concrete data on health benefits, lack of concrete definitions for sustainable food, loss of mission focus, and lack of control over supply chain and co-manufacturers. However, as the sustainable food movement continues to gather strength in the US, it is recommended that these companies: continue to make an effort to co-brand or co-manufacture with companies with a strong sustainable sourcing track record; join food industry coalitions or partner with NGOs on sustainable sourcing issues; incorporate more information into their educational programming or onto product labels; build community gardens; test-market premium products or membership services; continue to test-market fresh-delivery programs; set standards for co-manufacturers to meet for sustainable souring; set goals or standards for internal product development and incentivize meeting them; and finally, establish a culture that encourages environmental sustainability in general within corporate office locations.





Zoubek, Sarah (2013). Sustainable Food and the Weight Management Program Industry: A Comparative Case Study. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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