Weight loss leader Nutrisystem has announced a major organizational change today. According to a press release we received from the company, Dawn M. Zier will be assuming the role of president and CEO, replacing Joe Redling, who announced he’d be stepping down in April of this year. She will also be fulfilling his place on the board of directors. Zier will become the company’s first female CEO.
Ms. Zier has a start date of November 15, 2012; while Mr. Redling will exit the company on November 9, 2012 throughout he release of Nutrisystem’s third-quarter financial results. David Clark, Nutrisystem’s CFO, will be the interim CFO during the gap. Earnings so far have been modest for the brand, as in both Q1 and Q2 the Nutrisystem board of directors declared a 17.5 cent per-share value.
“I think this will have a short-term, if small, positive effect on the stock price and a longer-term hopeful trend up as shareholders process this,” Sarah Gilbert told us, a financial blogger with Wall Street experience.
John LaRosa, with 20 years of experience tracking and analyzing diet programs at MarketData, told us “NutriSystem is still struggling in terms of sales. I think their [Q2] report was for guidance of very moderate growth for the year 2012. Maybe Joe Redling has read the writing on the wall and wanted to get out before a disappointing Q3 earnings report came out.” LaRosa also mentioned that the company’s head of marketing left Nutrisystem last year for ServiceMaster.
In the company’s press release about her hiring, Zier outlines what looks like an aggressive job description that will make her popular with the board of directors and customers, too.
“Joining Nutrisystem is a wonderful opportunity for me personally, and the logical next step in my career,” said Ms. Zier in the press release. “The company has a strong portfolio of products that help consumers lose weight, improve their health, and live better lives. It has significant name recognition as a result of several decades of marketing investment in the brand. And it’s universally seen as one of the leaders in the weight loss sector.”
Any question about what her direction at Nutrisystem will be was made clear in her statement that the meal-delivery service can expect a lot of positively-driven change in the coming months and years. “With a fresh and creative approach to the consumer, a thoughtful eye to new product development, and a careful effort to contain costs, I believe we can improve financial performance and build shareholder value,” said Zier.
Previously, Dawn Zier was a 20-year veteran of the Reader’s Digest Association, a multimedia and direct marketing company where she held a number of leadership roles. Most recently, she oversaw the brand’s international business and was responsible for $750 million of revenue with a multinational team of 1,000 employees. Currently, Nutrisystem has 450 domestic-only employees.
The most major recent change consumers have enjoyed from Nutrisystem was the release of their Chef’s Table line of fresh-frozen meals, which we highly reviewed earlier this year. As well, the brand’s Nutrisystem-D product, for diabetes patients, now extends free diabetes counseling to those customers. This past spring, Janet Jackson, the company’s celebrity spokesperson since December 2011, Nutrisystem revealed that the singer-actress had successfully lost weight. Mike Hagan, chairman of the Nutrisystem board of directors, stated in the press release that Zier will be expected to help drive the direction of new revenue models, create a more customer-centric product, all while keeping costs maintained.
“Dawn Zier is a veteran of consumer-focused, people-pleasing marketing efforts and knows how to shape company offerings to meet the customers where they are,” commented Gilbert. “Nutrisystem has, for far too long, focused on where the customer was. As we move from a fad-based diet climate to a market in which consumers work harder to change long-term behaviors and focus on holistic nutrition and exercise plans, Nutrisystem will have to change its business model to stay ahead of the trend and base its offerings more on behavioral psychology and the science of obesity. Zier is as good a candidate as any to make this strategy change happen.”
As for Zier taking on an increasingly popular position as a female CEO of a major corporation, she may be a rarity in a female-centric industry. Leading competitors Weight Watchers and Medifast have men posted as CEO, while Jenny Craig is currently lead by Dana Fiser. “It might be a good thing for the company to have a female president,” commented LaRosa. “In NutriSystem ads in recent years, they used a lot of NFL former players and coaches (men) before Janet Jackson. I always wondered about having such people as role models for a predominantly female client base. Do most women identify with Dan Marino and Dick Shula? I think not.”
With Zier assuming her new role in mid-November, just weeks before the biggest diet season of the entire year kicks off, it’s not likely we’ll see any major program announcements as a result of her new leadership by new year. However, it’s possible she’ll have a lot to say about any initiatives that were in progress. We anticipate by spring 2013 seeing some major changes being announced by Nutrisystem as she follows through on some of the “fresh and creative approach” and “new product development” mentioned in the release.