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Can Subway Freshen Up Its Image After Jared?

For 15 years, Jared Fogle has been the famous face of Subway. Here, Fogle (left) visits a Subway shop in Daytona Beach, Fla., with NASCAR driver Carl Edwards in 2012.
Brian Blanco
For 15 years, Jared Fogle has been the famous face of Subway. Here, Fogle (left) visits a Subway shop in Daytona Beach, Fla., with NASCAR driver Carl Edwards in 2012.

If you can't picture Jared Fogle's face, you may remember his pants.

Before he lost a jaw-dropping 245 pounds, he was once an obese college student wearing blue jeans with a 60-inch waist.

He often held up those jeans in early commercials and TV appearances for Subway, a relic of the days before he swapped greasy food for a steady diet of the chain's low-fat sandwiches. Those pants, Fogle told CNN in 2013, "are way more famous than I am."

For 15 years, Fogle has been known as the "Subway guy." His story of dramatic weight loss became the centerpiece of Subway's marketing campaign.

Now, the chain has suspended its relationship with Fogle after law enforcement searched his home in connection with a criminal investigation.

"Subway and Jared Fogle have mutually agreed to suspend their relationship due to the current investigation," a Subway spokesman told The Salt via email.

"Jared continues to cooperate with authorities and he expects no actions to be forthcoming. Both Jared and Subway agree that this was the appropriate step to take," the spokesman wrote.

Fogle's slimmed-down waistline helped his bank account grow. (His net worth is an estimated$15 million.)

And along the way, says John Stanton, a food marketing professor at St. Joseph's University, Fogle also helped changed the public's perception of fast food.

"I don't think there's any doubt that he was the first person to draw attention to the fact that fast food is not necessarily bad for you" — if you make good choices, Stanton says. Fogle actually lost weight eating these sandwiches every day.

This message that Fogle shared — that it was possible to lose weight eating Subway sandwiches — says Stanton, helped transform the sandwich chain.

"I think he really helped Subway move into a position of being a dominant player in fast food," Stanton says.

Even before this latest trouble, Fogle's profile had begun to take a bit of a back seat. Subway now has ad campaigns starring sports players, and new menu items.

But the sandwich chain has also hit challenges of late: According to industry market research firm Technomic, Subway slipped from the second-largest restaurant chain to no. 3 in 2014.

And while Subway has long used the slogan "eat fresh," what consumers consider to be fresh has changed in recent years.

In a blog post this spring, Technomic warned that "as Subway's prices have crept upward ... perceived freshness and quality have not."

And, as Technomic pointed out, other fast-casual brands "have also made inroads into Subway's positioning as the health leader in limited service" restaurants.

Last month, Subway announced it was ditching artificial ingredients from its offerings, becoming part of a growing list of fast-food eateries and food companies to make similar moves.

So as Subway tries out new ways to appeal to health-conscious eaters, it has already moved beyond just the story of one guy who slimmed down.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.