Sept. 10, 2018 - There is a trade association for virtually every industry in the United States. Literally thousands exist. One for Medical Spas? Yep. Janitorial services? Yep. Strip Clubs? Check. Collection Agencies? Yep. Weight Loss Companies? Nope, sorry.
Having worked for a national trade association (paper distributors) early in my career, I know well that a trade association has many benefits for its members. I also know that just about every business or industry, as it grows and matures, forms one. It's a natural progression.
The benefits are as follows:
- A national association is able to present a unified voice to further the interests of the industry. It has greater clout in lobbying efforts than individual companies, and is better able to face competitive threats.
- An annual conference or convention provides for information sharing.
- Research projects by the association provide needed information, surveys, benchmarking statistics, and industry publications.
- The trade group can provide education and training seminars, webinars, and workshops.
- An association can "certify" staff such as weight loss counselors.
- An association can create a national advertising campaign.
- An association can create an industry code of ethics and help weed out less than reputable operators.
So, why hasn't the weight loss industry recognized the value of a national trade association? Have there been any efforts in the past to form one?
The answer to the latter question is yes - I personally attempted to form an association for the industry back in 1994. I sent out detailed proposals for the creation and funding of a diet industry trade group and sent it to the CEOs of all the major diet companies. No response. Not one!
Over the past 29 years of tracking and analyzing the diet market, I have learned one thing for sure. That is, this industry was built by individual entrepreneurs, with very large egos. So much so that the CEO of one diet company doesn't want to be in the same room as another CEO. They each feel that their company is the best, is unique, and they can't possibly learn anything new from anyone else. In addition, they are paranoid that their "secrets" will get out to the competition.
This attitude is simply silly and unfounded. There are no secrets in weight loss. There is no magic formula. To lose weight, you simply cut calories, eat healthier foods, and exercise more. No magic here, although each company would have you believe that there is.
To be clear, there ARE a few national groups that represent medical weight loss programs and weight loss surgeons. The Obesity Medicine Association represents bariatricians (MDs that are board certified to treat obesity), and the ASMBS (American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery) represents bariatric surgeons. It's just the COMMERCIAL weight loss providers that have not formed an association. Yet, it's these large companies that are the household names, that get the most exposure, that serve the greatest number of dieters. Perhaps the reason why no national group has been formed is that the medical and commercial providers feel that no group could represent the interests of both camps, and that their programs are so different. But, it doesn't have to be that way. There can exist both medical and commercial trade associations.
For a $68 billion industry to have no trade association is just ludicrous. The industry's operators did come together and agree on a few things:
- The Weight Loss Consumer Bill of Rights (an attempt at a code of ethics)
- The Weight Control Information Network (WIN)
WIN provides the general public and health professionals with evidence-based information and resources on obesity, weight management, physical activity, and related topics. WIN is a congressionally authorized service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which is the Federal Government's leading agency for biomedical research on nutrition and obesity and part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
These are good steps, but it still falls far short of a national trade group.
Will we ever see a national weight loss trade association? Time will tell.
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