BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The new year is prime time for making resolutions, and none is more popular than losing weight.
The industry is well aware of that, so the media are stuffed with ads at this time of year. For example, the now-svelte pop diva Mariah Carey is singing the praises of a New Year jump-start program for Jenny Craig, after a 30-pound, post-pregnancy slim-down.
Not to be outdone, competitor NutriSystem (NTRI - Get Report) is attempting to appeal to men, a fast-growing segment of the weigh-loss market, by recently naming former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw a spokesman.And that shines the light on what is now an estimated $60 billion industry, which ranges from pre-packaged meals in supermarkets or shipped directly to homes, local or Internet-based group meetings, to individualized consulting. This business has huge potential, given the fast-growing rate of obesity and the health problems it brings, including heart disease and diabetes. According to government statistics, two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Americans tend to gain one pound during the holiday season, which while slight, adds up over the years because the weight isn't lost during the rest of the year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some investors are aware of the opportunity as the industry leader, Weight Watchers International (WTW - Get Report), has seen its shares rise 51% this year. Weight Watchers claims it has 1.7 million paid online subscribers. Another leading player, besides Weight Watchers and NutriSystem, is Nestle (NSRGY), one of the world's largest food companies, through its Jenny Craig unit. Here are summaries of the three leading publicly traded weight-loss companies and their outlook: