JENNY CRAIG: Looks to Cash In on Xenical’s Popularity
Angling for more ground in the lucrative weight-loss business, "dieting guru" Jenny Craig is eyeing the Internet and Hoffman- LaRoche Inc.'s Xenical to shore up her company's bottom line, the Wall Street Journal reports. As customers continue to balk at the cost of Jenny's Cuisine (the full-course meals that can run $75 a week) the company is testing its marketing savvy on the Internet, where it hosts a Web site that hawks nutritional supplements and offers advice "on everything from menopause to osteoporosis as part of an effort to leverage the company into a broader women's health concern." Even with the innovations, the company's stock tumbled 53% in the third quarter ended March 31. Two months later, Jenny Craig announced that it had agreed to link its own Web site with www.Women.com, "a larger, more elaborate Web portal."
Jenny Craig President Phil Voluck said that the company had tried a number of different approaches, and reluctantly decided to enter the "diet-drug craze that peaked in 1997." As profits fell, "executives belatedly gave in and offered fen-phen as an adjunct to the Jenny Craig regimen," only to have the fenfluramine component yanked from the market several months later. Although Jenny Craig "personally laments the position miracle drugs have put her company in," the company is trying to cash in Xenical's popularity. Voluck said he has recently contacted Hoffman-LaRoche "to try to persuade it to urge doctors to prescribe the drug in combination with the Jenny Craig plan." Voluck asserted that "all the aspects of the Jenny Craig program fit the mold needed for Xenical to be truly successful." Hoffman- LaRoche spokesperson Valerie Suga refused to confirm any such talks (Biddle, 7/12).