All About Weight: Allison Wetton
The All About Weight founder explains how she is going to help the nation lose weight
Weight loss is big business. In western Europe, sales of weight-loss products topped £900m last year. The UK weight loss industry is worth a billion a year, according to the BBC. Despite the size of the market though, a few big names dominate – Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Lighter Life. Allison Wetton is determined to add her four-year-old business, All About Weight, to the list of companies piling on the profit by helping people shed the pounds.
Around 43% of men and 32% of women in the UK are overweight, according to the British Heart Foundation. “I was among those whose weight fluctuated,” says Wetton, “so I started researching the weight loss industry and became engrossed in it.” She was surprised by an apparent stark choice – lose weight very gradually but healthily, or lose it quickly on a very low calorie diet – typically by reducing calorie intake to around 500 calories a day. Having recognised that gap in the market she set about filling it, immersing herself in two years of research and development. These two years focused on working with nutritionists and scientists to develop and manufacture the nutritionally balanced Mealpaks clients receive and eat alongside ‘real' food.
Launching in 2007 was far from straightforward, and the fact the business survived at all is perhaps the most convincing indication that Wetton has the determination, and the business has the potential, to make All About Weight a name to watch. According to Wetton, one of the biggest providers of very low calorie diet programmes was “on us like a ton of bricks, throwing lawsuit after lawsuit at us. They thought they could take us out, but it didn't happen”. Despite the costs involved, she invested in a good solicitor and managed to fight, albeit having to change the business' name along the way. “It just shows someone ordinary can survive even when a £30m company is on your case,” she says.
After launch, All About Weight got off to a flying start. Rather than waiting six months to start taking on consultants, as Wetton predicted, “we were getting calls from consultants in the industry in the first two days. They forced us to put our business model together very quickly”. Wetton believes this was because it was offering clients something new. Client meetings were optional, not obligatory, and a sophisticated IT system meant new clients could go through an online screening process. Arguably the main appeal was that it offered the chance to lose weight quickly (up to 6lb in the first week) but while still enjoying proper, nutritious food.
There's certainly a strong appetite for the concept – the business is now the fastest growing weight loss company in the UK. Turnover exceeded £1m in year one with a healthy £227,000 profit. This rose to £3m turnover and £1.1m profit last year, and Wetton is predicting revenues of £5m and £2.1m profit by the end of this year – all without taking on debt.
Wetton says she receives enquiries from all over the world every day, and she's confident of the opportunities overseas. But “we won't do it until we're ready. I think we need another 12 months and then we'll start looking for the right international director”.
She is already looking at potential markets though, noting “obesity is on the rise in the middle eastern market so that is something we'd definitely be looking at”. To enable this, she is considering working with a private equity company. “We've had lots of interest and I have been very tempted,” says Wetton, “but I want another year or two to carry on building the company and then we'll talk. We are certainly interested in their expertise in international markets.”
A recent survey found that 98% of the business' customers felt very positively towards it – an encouraging stat as enthusiastic clients often contribute to even more important revenue streams: the business allows them to become consultants by buying mini franchises. Wetton takes the brand, and how people respond to it, very seriously, so much so that she cites Apple, somewhat surprisingly, as the company whose steps she wants to follow in. IT doesn't come into it, but the affinity between customer and brand does. “Once people love your brand,” she says, “that's it.”