Consumer goods group Unilever (ULVR.L)(UNc.AS) is considering whether to sell its Slim-Fast business, Sky News reported on Wednesday, after months of speculation sparked by a similar move from rival NestleNESN.VX.
Nestle announced in November plans to shed most of its Jenny Craig business, highlighting the challenges facing the weight-loss industry - in lean economic times, people can diet on their own at no cost.
Citing unnamed sources close to the situation, Sky News said that Unilever is in the early stages of examining whether to sell its range of weight-loss products, noting that it may decide to keep the brand after reviewing the options.
Unilever declined to comment on the report.
The Anglo-Dutch maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Dove soap is in the process of reviewing all its underperforming assets and analysts have long pegged Slim-Fast as a candidate for disposal.
Bernstein Research estimated late last year that Slim-Fast had 2012 sales of 300 million euros ($406.3 million), 34 percent lower than when Unilever agreed to buy the business in 2000 for $2.3 billion.
Unilever has not invested heavily in Slim-Fast, which sells meal replacement drinks, allowing rivals such as Kellogg Co's (K.N) Special K to steal market share.
London-listed Unilever shares were up 1 percent by 1621 GMT at 25.04 pounds. ($1 = 0.7383 euros)
(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Editing by David Goodman)