Atkins hunts for new firm despite debt to Widmeyer

NEW YORK: Atkins Nutritionals might have lost its founder, gone out of style, and declared bankruptcy ? even counting one PR firm among its many creditors - but that hasn?t stopped it from searching for a new firm.

NEW YORK: Atkins Nutritionals might have lost its founder, gone out of style, and declared bankruptcy ? even counting one PR firm among its many creditors - but that hasn?t stopped it from searching for a new firm.

A decision could come as soon as this week, said Richard Rothstein, VP corporate communications.

Rothstein has been looking for an agency "in an area of expertise that I don't have in-house," he said in response to written questions. He would not specify the nature of the outreach, writing only that it's "something new and my competitors don't need to know about it."

Atkins filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 31, but that will have no impact on PR spending this year or next, according to Rothstein.

Atkins does not currently work with a PR firm, but last year completed a project with Widmeyer Communications for which it still owes $112,500, according to its Chapter 11 filing.

A source close to the situation said that Atkins hired the independent firm to engage education policy makers and opinion leaders on a nutrition approach targeted toward youth. The contract ran from September 2003 to December 2004 and was allowed to expire despite the fact that it "didn't get very far," according to the source.

Atkins also worked with Williams Whittle Rothstein in a 2004 campaign to refute a New York Times Magazine article that misstated Atkins' position on saturated-fat consumption.

It has been handling communications about the bankruptcy with its in-house staff. The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy before the end of this year.

Atkins, which makes a line of low-carb food products, thrived as interest in the diet created by Dr. Robert Atkins grew in the past few years. Atkins passed away in 2003.

The diet became so popular last year that many food groups shunned by the trend, such as potato growers and pasta makers, launched campaigns to remind people of the benefits of their products.

Atkins faced stiff competition from a wide range of low-carb offerings similar to its own just as demand for such products began to wane. Atkins said its sales starting falling in the second half of 2004.

The number of US adults on a low-carb diet fell from 9% in early 2004 to 2.2% in July, according to research by NPD Group, a market research firm.

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