U.S. News

Weight-Loss Firms Put on New Customers After Thin 2009

Vera Gibbons|Special to CNBC.com

As Americans' bottom line improves, weight-loss companies are hoping more of them will spend money doing the same for their waist lines.

It's certainly a large market: a whopping two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.


Given that potential, the industry's three big players—which have markedly different business models—are looking to take a bigger bite out of an extremely fragmented, yet lucrative market.

Weight Watchers International with 3 percent of the $55 billion dollar global market, is the industry bellwether. Sixty percent of its revenue is from meeting fees.

In an industry rife with false claims, WWI has made a name for itself by educating consumers, and giving them the tools they need to battle the bulge. “When we think about growth for our company, we think about it in that sense,” says WTW President and CEO, David Kirchhoff.

The company, which has posted 13 percent annualized since 2002, is looking at modest growth going forward, says Moody’s analyst Lenny Ajzenman, but is benefiting from customers switching from in-person meetings to its more profitable online service.