Weight Watchers for teens across the U.S. will be free this summer as the company embarks upon a rigorous campaign to promote healthy living among the youth while growing its revenue.
The six-week promotion kicks off in July and will allow teens between the ages of 13 and 17 free membership in a bid to "help those who need healthy habits to develop them at this critical life-stage," a statement said, according to the New York Post.
On Wednesday the company announced that it was aiming to recruit 5 million people into the Weight Watchers program by 2020 and planned to have all artificial ingredients removed from its products. The news was followed by a 16 percent hike in company shares, CNN noted.
Weight Watchers is associated with dieting and weight loss but now the company hopes to shed this reputation and reintroduce itself as a beacon of health and wellness to the public.
The revamped image is also part of a new initiative to bolster sales from the $1.2 billion earned in 2016 to $2 billion by the end of 2020, CNN noted.
It seems that the celebrity drawcard is part of the appeal for Weight Watchers, which saw an uptick in shares after signing popular music producer DJ Khaled on as a social media ambassador in January.
Stocks further soared weeks later when Oprah Winfrey, who owns a 10 percent stake in the company and also serves as its spokesperson, made her Golden Globes speech.
The new campaign to target teens has renewed interest in the company but has also drawn mixed reactions from health experts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics praised the initiative as a step toward combating childhood obesity but others feel it could create a negative relationship between food and body image among the youth.
"Weight Watchers really is dieting and focusing on just weight, and research has shown when the focus is on weight and dieting in teens, that is not an effective way to promote and sustain weight loss," said Tomi Akanbi, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, per CNBC News. "It's not even helpful to promote overall wellness because we're also talking about body image and how these kids are experiencing themselves and food and their bodies, and dieting does not help with that."
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