Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Diet Pottery Business

In the months before her wedding, Jennifer Panepinto adopted portion-control dieting and found herself counting every calorie and measur-ing every serving, even eating many meals out of measuring cups. As a design student at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Panepinto decided to take her dieting a step further. For her thesis project, she designed a six-piece set of ceramic bowls of varying measurements to aid portion-control dieters. Her teacher, Brian Collins, who is also an executive creative director at international advertising and PR agency Ogilvy & Mather, agreed to purchase 100 sets if she took the product to market. So she found a manufacturer in China, self-funded the first round of production and sold her professor 600 bowls, which he gave to family, friends and people he knew in the industry.

The buzz created by those first 100 sets of Mesü bowls led Panepinto, 30, to marketing experts Elizabeth Talerman and Gina Paoloni, both 42. From there, “the press came fast and furious,” Paoloni says. Mesü bowls were featured on Extra and the Today show, in Real Simple and various publications, and offered contracts with QVC and

Paoloni attributes some of Mesü’s success to the popular-ity of portion-control diets. “There’s so much research that shows portion control is the only true way to lose weight and keep it off,” she says. “Everybody is on a diet at some point, so [the bowls] are just a great idea.”

As avid Mesü users themselves, Panepinto and Paoloni can attest to this. “After using them for so long,” says Panepinto, “I really have a conscious awareness of how much food I’m eating.” Since its inception, Studio Panepinto, which projects 2006 sales between $335,000 and $350,000, has sold approximately 15,000 sets. Future products include a plastic version of the bowls and additions to the company’s current line.

The Two Finger Diet: How the Media Has Duped Women into Hating Themselves