Slim•Fast is a brand of shakes, bars, snacks, packaged meals, and other dietary supplement foods sold in the U.S., UK, Ireland, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland and Latin America by Unilever. Slim Fast promotes diets and weight loss plans featuring its food products. Its U.S. headquarters is in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Overview and history
Slim-Fast was started in 1977 as a product line of the Thompson Medical Company, founded in the 1940s by S. Daniel Abraham. Thompson Medical also sold the controversial weight loss dietary supplement Dexatrim.  In 1987, Abraham took the brand private, and it was acquired by Unilever in 2000.
Slim-Fast used the phrase "a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner" for many years to describe the use of the products within the Slim-Fast plan. With the addition of snacks and an approach that allows for different calorie plans, the brand now advocates a more flexible system. The brand has recently become focused on achieving success through tying its use to the Best Life Diet. There is evidence from a 2003 study that Slim-Fast is successful at achieving long-term weight loss for those who follow the diet.
Slim-Fast's product line existed in three distinctive eras. There was the original product line (shakes only), the low-carb product line which were made in response to the low-carb diet craze initiated by the Atkins Diet and South Beach Diet, and the simplified "3-2-1" product line introduced in late 1994.
Slim-Fast was originally just a diet shake product line. It consisted of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry shakes meant to replace breakfast and lunch. They would then suggest a low-calorie dinner. Usually, dieters would often pick a low-calorie frozen dinner brand such as Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, etc. as the Slim-Fast diet itself was a convenience diet and it offered none of its own dinner products. Later in the mid-1990s, Slim-Fast would offer meal bars that could also be used as meal replacements.
Low-Carb Era (2004-2009)
Slim-Fast struggled, as did many diet foods in 2002 with the rise of low-carb diets, with a drop in sales during one year of 21 percent. The brand responded in 2004 with a line of low-carb items that were designed to capture this market and also introduced Slim-Fast Optima products which were lower in sugar than the standard Slim-Fast products.
Between 2004 and 2009, there were five types of Slim-Fast products available: Original, Optima, Low carb, High protein, and Easy-to-Digest. Optima was the flagship brand and eventually replaced "original recipe" shakes. In addition to having less sugar than the original, Slim Fast Optima shakes also contain a protein and vegetable fat blend that is claimed to help with hunger control. Optima was available in the same forms as the original products, including meal bars, shakes, snack bars and powder.
In late 2009, Slim-Fast simplified its product line with the "3-2-1" diet plan. The plan emphasized three 100-calorie snacks, two 200-calorie meal replacements (shakes or meal bars) and one dinner. Slim Fast's product line now only consists of 3-2-1 products and no longer sells Optima, Original, Low-Carb, or Easy-to-Digest brands.
There are two categories of Slim-Fasts products, and two sub-categories each:
- Shakes - Both can only be used as meal replacements (the "2" in the 3-2-1 plan, as a dieter is allowed two "2" a day).
- Ready-to-drink Shakes come in plastic bottles (in 2011, Slim-Fast stop producing cans). It is essentially the shake mix mixed with skim milk.
- Shake Mix powder, can be mixed with milk, water, or anything the dieter chooses to mix it with. The net cost of this method is cheaper than ready-to-drink shakes as the costs of milk and tin are not included with the powder.
- Bars - Meal Replacements (item "2") and Snack Bars (item "3")
- Meal Replacements are 200 calories and are meant to be used in place of shakes as the "2" in the 3-2-1 plan like the shakes. A dieter can have two shakes, two bars, or one bar and one shake, as long as they only have two "2" items a day. Meal bars are supplemented with vitamins and minerals as much as the shakes.
- Snack Bars are 100-calories and meant to be the "3" in the 3-2-1 plan, as a dieter can have 3 a day. Snack bars are not supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
A dieter could eat two snack bars as their meal replacement, since two snack bars have the same number of calories as one meal bar, although the meal bars are also meant to be rich in vitamins and minerals whereas the snack bars are only measured by calorie count and not supplemented by vitamins.
In a sense, the 3-2-1 is similar to the original plan ("two shakes and a sensible dinner") with the addition of three small snacks in between. As the low-carb diet craze has slowed down, Slim-Fast no longer offers specifically low-carb products, although they do offer low-carb vanilla and chocolate shakes but as flavors of the 3-2-1- brand (rather than a separate Low-Carb Slim-Fast brand as before).
On December 3, 2009 Slim Fast issued a recall of all products in cans due to possible bacterial contamination. The company stated that it halted production until the cause was discovered. No further problems or issues have been noted.
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- Associated Press (December 5, 2009). "Slim Fast canned drinks recalled by Unilever". NYDailyNews.com.