THEY scored a $300,000 deal on Shark Tank with their rapid weight loss meal plans, but now the Victorian duo behind Be Fit Food have sparked an angry backlash.
Sydney entrepreneur Bianca Monley said she was "shell-shocked" after watching Tuesday night's episode - which saw clinical dietitian Kate Save and bariatric surgeon Dr Geoff Draper's ketogenic meal business score an investment from Boost Juice founder Janine Allis - saying it had already had a "significantly detrimental impact" on her brand.
Ms Monley is the founder of Eat Fit Food, founded in 2005, which also delivers tailored, pre-packaged meals for healthy living across Sydney and Melbourne. She has accused Be Fit Food of causing "confusion in the marketplace", and expressed concerns about the rival company's ultra low-calorie meals.
"I'm very upset," she said. "I've spent the last 17 years building my brand. We do home-delivered, healthy gourmet meals. We have a certified dietitian who develops our program, so I'm a little bit gobsmacked at the calories they're prescribing people. We promote plans that are safe for individuals with the correct daily nutritional requirements."
Jaime Rose Chambers, Eat Fit Food's accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist, said the company provided "balanced, calorie-controlled meals to support efficient and sustainable fat loss for our clients".
"Eating less than around 1000 calories per day will not meet nutritional needs and is unsustainable long term, inevitably causing a rapid weight regain once returning to eating 'normally' again and perpetuating negative body image," she said.
"For this reason, our meal programs have been designed to range from 1200-1400 calories per day, distributed over three main meals and two snacks, so it is not a diet but a way of life."
Ms Monley said her business was a "household name", especially in Sydney and Melbourne, and had been endorsed by celebrities including Hugh Jackman and Miranda Kerr.
She had sent Be Fit Food a letter around 18 months ago with concerns about its trademark to advise them of the similar name, logo and business, but received no response.
Be Fit Food said in a statement that its trademark application received full clearance. "As such, there is no trademark infringement with respect to our business model, marketing materials and name," a spokeswoman said.
Ms Monley insisted she was "not here to slander off other people". "For me it's just an emotional, upsetting thing, people who want to lose weight are (choosing) a diet that is very, very low in calories and unsafe," she said.
She said since Tuesday night, her business had been inundated with phone calls from customers - mistaking it for Be Fit Food.
"[The impact] is more people thinking that their brand is our brand, when we stand for something completely different," she said. "We had a few calls yesterday with people thinking we were them, so there is clear confusion for people in the marketplace."
In response to criticisms about the low calorie count of its food, Be Fit Food said the company uses "clinically proven, nutritional science to develop meal plans that have the optimal balance of macronutrients to promote healthy weight loss".
"The meal plans are formulated using the only rapid weight loss clinical science that is accepted by the medical community," a spokeswoman said.
"Specifically, our Be Rapid program is based on the science that shows a short-term, low-calorie diet not only achieves the best results initially, but also leads to greater success long term. The product is designed as a short-term program from which consumers can transition to our other programs once interim desired results have been achieved."
According to dietitian Susie Burrell, there is "no evidence to show that keto diets are damaging to the body". "In fact, with their superior weight loss and associated reductions in inflammation in the body, there are a number of benefits, particularly for individuals with high blood glucose levels, fatty liver and significant amounts of weight to lose," she wrote last month.
Ms Burrell added that "any diet will work when it is followed". "The primary issue with a keto approach is that people do not do it properly to get the best results, or they are not compliant for the long periods of time it takes to get significant weight loss," she wrote.
"If you do have significant amounts of weight to lose, or are struggling with high blood sugars or a fatty liver, it may be worth a try but do it with supervision from a dietitian to make sure you are doing it the right way to get the best results without damaging your metabolism or gut health long term."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.