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Metrecal was a brand of low-calorie, powdered diet foods (to be mixed with water as a beverage) "containing the essential nutrients of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals" introduced in the early 1960s by the Mead Johnson company, with the first variety going on the market on October 6, 1959, the same day as another Mead Johnson product,
Enfamil Enfamil (a play on words of 'infant meal') is an American brand of infant formula Infant formula, baby formula or just formula (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U. ...
. Though the initial Metrecal products were criticized for their taste, which newer varieties of flavor tried to improve upon, it attained a niche in the popular culture of the time. Created and marketed initially by C. Joseph Genster of
Mead Johnson & Company Mead Johnson & Company, LLC is an American company that operates as an independent subsidiary of Reckitt. It is a leading manufacturer of infant formula both domestically and globally with its flagship product Enfamil. The company dates back to a ...
, it was eventually replaced in the market by competitors such as
SlimFast SlimFast is an American company headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida that markets an eponymous brand of shakes, bars, snacks, packaged meals, and other dietary supplement foods sold in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, L ...
and lost popularity because it was linked to deaths.


History


Founding

Mead Johnson had a long history of creating nutritional supplements for infants (
Enfamil Enfamil (a play on words of 'infant meal') is an American brand of infant formula Infant formula, baby formula or just formula (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U. ...
) and invalids, and Metrecal was seen as a logical progression into weight loss for the general public. Genster was the group director for nutritional specialties at Mead Johnson, which launched the product in September 1959, though it was unclear who conceived the original concept. Food innovator
Sylvia Schur Sylvia Zipser Schur (June 27, 1917 – September 8, 2009) was an American food column A food column is a type of newspaper column A column is a recurring piece or article in a newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical ...
's company provided consulting work on the product's development. The name for the product was generated by an
IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the C ...

IBM
syllable-scrambling program, that when "meter" and "calories" were entered, referring to the measured caloric intake of the diet, the name "Metrecal" was created.


Popular phase

Originally the product came as a powder (containing powdered
skim milk Skimmed milk (British English), or skim milk (American English), is made when all the cream, milkfat is removed from whole milk. It tends to contain around 0.1% fat. Background Historically, skimmed milk was used for fattening pigs, and was recom ...
, soybean flour, sugar and corn oil and fortified with vitamins and minerals) which was to be mixed with water. In contrast to other weight loss products available at the time, Metrecal included more
protein Proteins are large biomolecule , showing alpha helices, represented by ribbons. This poten was the first to have its suckture solved by X-ray crystallography by Max Perutz and Sir John Cowdery Kendrew in 1958, for which they received a No ...

protein
. The Metrecal diet plan had people consume four self-prepared shakes (or portion-controlled cans) of Metrecal a day, with each can providing 225 calories for a total of 900 per day. Many of those trying to subsist on 900 calories per day experienced hunger pangs, which would typically dissipate after a few days. In addition to the original vanilla flavor, later offerings included chocolate and butterscotch along with several other flavors, and the product line was extended to include Metrecal cookies, clam chowder and tuna with noodles. Stating that "most users agree that the stuff is vile-tasting", ''Time'' reported that many dieters would add liquor to make it more palatable. ''
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Forbes
'' noted how "Metrecal moved out of the medicine cabinet toward the kitchen, the patio, the pool", while an article in a November 1960 article in ''
Time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various me ...
'' magazine reported that it was being purchased by "growing hordes of Schmoo-shaped addicts who were insisting on guzzling their way to the vanishing point" who were joined by the royalty of
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Greece
and
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Saudi Arabia
.Staff
"Americana: The Theory of Weightlessness"
''
Time (magazine) ''Time'' (stylized in all caps In typography, all caps (short for "all capitalization, capitals") refers to text or a typeface, font in which all letters are capital letters, for example: TEXT IN ALL CAPS. All caps may be used for emphasis ...
'', November 21, 1960. Accessed August 31, 2010.
In her 1963 book ''
The Feminine Mystique ''The Feminine Mystique'' is a book by Betty Friedan, widely credited with sparking second-wave feminism in the United States. First published by W. W. Norton & Company, W. W. Norton on February 19, 1963, ''The Feminine Mystique'' became a bestsel ...
'',
Betty Friedan Betty Friedan ( February 4, 1921 – February 4, 2006) was an American feminist Feminism is a range of social movement A social movement is a loosely organized effort by a large group of people to achieve a particular goal, typical ...

Betty Friedan
lamented how women "ate a chalk called Metrecal, instead of food, to shrink to the size of thin young models".


Decline

The fad started fading in the mid-1960s, when Peter Wyden, author of the 1965 book ''The Overweight Society'', noted that "even reasonably steadfast dieters simply grew tired" of the monotony of drinking the shakes day after day, as well as copycat products, such as Sego, taking market share. By March 1977, ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'' said that Metrecal had "gone the way of all flesh" and a spokesperson for
Bristol-Myers Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) is an American pharmaceutical company The pharmaceutical industry discovers, develops, produces, and markets drug File:Aspirine macro shot.jpg, Uncoated aspirin Tablet (pharmacy), tablets, consisting of about 9 ...
, which then owned Mead Johnson, acknowledged that "Times change. The market changes." Warnings regarding a wide range of liquid protein weight loss products were issued by the
Food and Drug Administration The United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, st ...
starting later in 1977. In 1978, Metrecal and other similar products were pulled off shelves after the FDA connected 59 deaths, between late 1977 to early 1978, to liquid protein products.Kleinfeld, N. R
"THE EVER-FATTER BUSINESS OF THINNESS"
''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'', September 7, 1986. Accessed August 31, 2010.


References

{{reflist Brand name diet products 1960s fads and trends