Weight-loss brand Jenny Craig to close down operations

Keywords Health Care / Retail
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Jenny Craig, the weight loss and nutrition business backed by HIG Capital, has shut down after four decades of operation after failing to secure additional financing, according to an employee.

Management informed workers of the news in an email late Tuesday, and company-owned centers where members pick up meals, consult with coaches and weigh in are closed as of Wednesday, the employee said, adding that franchise-owned locations may remain open.

Jenny Craig had been seeking a buyer as it struggles amid increased competition, including against much-hyped new weight-loss drugs. With about 500 North American locations and around 600 centers worldwide, Jenny Craig was also hurt by the COVID pandemic as customers stayed home.

Jenny Craig lists three weight-loss centers in Indianapolis: at 6398 E. 82nd St. in Castleton; at 2636 Lake Circle Drive in the Willow Lake East retail center; and at Greenwood Place Shopping Center at 7653 S. Shelby St.

Bloomberg News previously reported that the company was mulling bankruptcy if a buyer didn’t surface. The company also had plans to move to an online-only model but it’s unclear whether that will happen, the employee said. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The news was earlier reported by NBC.

Jenny Craig employs more than 1,000 workers, and corporate and salaried field employees’ last day was to be Friday, according to the report, while hourly center employees’ last working day was Tuesday. Workers will receive a final paycheck, including full compensation through their last working day as well as unused paid time off, NBC said.

The company is among the few weight-loss programs that have ruled the diet industry for decades as millions of Americans have sought to control their weight.

Jenny Craig Inc. has faced increasing competition and waning interest in recent years, especially as dieting has fallen out of fashion and newly popular drugs, such as Wegovy and Ozempic, promise quicker weight loss.

But in the 1990s, the company seemed to be everywhere. Craig’s desire to help people slim down was born of personal experience. She told People magazine in 1990 that she felt terrible about herself when weight from her second pregnancy was difficult to lose.

“I used to look in the mirror and cry,” she said. “I would just cry and say, ‘What did you do to yourself?'”

Craig, a New Orleans native, and her husband launched their weight-loss empire in 1983 after the pair moved to Australia and saw a gap in the country’s diet industry. She had worked in the weight-loss field for decades, including at a chain of women’s “figure control” salons, she told CNN. That experience, she said, taught her “the things that work and the things that don’t work.”

Jenny and Sid Craig’s bet on Jenny Craig Inc. proved successful. The company grew to employ more than 1,000 people and at one point managed more than 660 weight-management centers across Australia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

For the year ended June 1993, around the height of the diet’s popularity, the company earned more than $490 million. It also made the couple millionaires.

The diet, which centers on prepackaged foods and one-on-one coaching, attracted a slew of endorsements from celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Queen Latifah, Jessica Simpson, Jason Alexander and Kirstie Alley. The company also ran commercials featuring Monica Lewinsky, but it yanked the ads from the air after people criticized Lewinsky as a poor role model.

Despite its popularity and expansion, in 1993 the company was beginning to experience financial woes. It later refocused its program to include supplements, exercise equipment and a simpler food program with more choices.

After leaving the day-to-day running of the business, Craig told San Diego-based Ranch & Coast Magazine in 2017 that she had noticed a shift in the weight-loss industry.

“Now it’s a combination of not only looking good, but eating healthily and exercising so you live longer,” she said.

Some people involved with the company have said they regret encouraging people to focus so much on their appearance.

Last year, actor Valerie Bertinelli apologized for helping to promote a “diet culture” mentality when she was a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. Her 2009 appearance in a two-piece swimsuit on the cover of People magazine prompted headlines about how she had recovered her “bikini body” while on the program.

“Looking back now, I was part of a diet culture that didn’t celebrate women no matter what size,” Bertinelli, who starred in the TV shows “One Day at a Time” and “Hot in Cleveland,” told Washington Post Live in January 2022. “It was about getting down to the smallest size you could possibly get to, and if you’re not there, then you’re a failure. And I don’t believe that to be true any longer.”

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