"When I came on board consumers had just started to see carbs in a different light," she said. "We know today that individuals have a list of things they consider healthy and that includes protein, fiber and low sugar. But we also know that 40% of consumers now include reducing carbs on their list today as well."
Part of the company's transition was reliant upon planning the future of the Atkins brand-this was Ms. Neumann's job. "It quickly became apparent that we were speaking to a much broader group of men and women to which the Atkins brand was relevant," Ms. Neumann said. "Within months of me joining Atkins and undertaking a lot of consumer research, we figured out that the future of the Atkins brand lay in health and wellness, and common sense nutrition."
The point of Atkins today is to let consumers know that the brand offers a range of benefits beyond reduced carbs. "In addition to our brand being low in carbs, it's also high in protein, high in fiber and low in sugar," Ms. Neumann pointed out, adding, "Our products are also packed with vitamins and minerals, and contain no trans fats."
As Atkins approached unprecedented growth rates during the low-carb craze, it fell on tough times as companies stopped pinning their hopes of success on "carb-less" products. On top of that, its founder passed away suddenly as the low-carb market started its plunge. The final blow, or so everyone thought, was when it filed for bankruptcy in August 2005.
But it was these events, Ms. Neumann said, that actually made the company stronger. "People were pretty galvanized about this company and the brand. Surprisingly, we didn't lose too many people through the transition," she said. "In fact, we kept all of the great people that helped bring this company to the next level. Morale was incredibly strong because I think when you have a company that has a deeper mission, people invest a lot of time and heart in that mission."
Controlled carbohydrates is a really important foundation for Atkins because consumers are changing the way they eat. "People are eating a little less bread and maybe choosing broccoli instead of French fries-they care about their carb intake now," Ms. Neumann said. "But since everyone knows Atkins and the controlled carbohydrate messaging, it is not even something we need to talk about anymore. The real opportunity lies in exploiting the other nutritional attributes of Atkins products. We have a real nutrition advantage."
When Atkins emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, the company decided it needed to stick with its core products-bars and beverages. "Over 90% of our revenues have always come from our bars and beverages. It was an easy decision to come back and focus only on those lines," Ms. Neumann offered. "However, the future may pave the way for additional products."
Asked what types of products might emerge from Atkins down the road, Ms. Neumann remained a bit guarded. "There is some secrecy around new products at the moment, but what I can say is that portability, nutrition and taste are the keys to any products we launch down the road. We believe there are other categories out there that we can enter and provide products that are better than existing offerings."
For the future, Ms. Neumann said, "You have do the right thing in this world today. To do the right thing for consumers you really have to make sure that your products meet consumers' needs on every level from a health and wellness standpoint. You really have to make sure that your products are healthy in their entirety, not just one element."