clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Teen Favorite Forever 21 Under Fire for Including Atkins Diet Bars With Orders

The brand is one of few retailers with a large plus-sized collection

The exterior of a Forever 21 store
Forever 21
Flickr/Mike Mozart

It is not unheard of for brands to include a free sample with purchase, whether it’s Sephora throwing in a trial size eye cream or getting a baker’s dozen of doughnuts. But some are finding the samples included with recent Forever 21 orders to be offensive, especially for a brand that caters largely to teen girls.

This weekend, Twitter user Melody Green tweeted that her friend ordered plus size clothing from the fast fashion company, and received a free Atkins bar with her purchase. She wrote, “My friend bought plus size clothes from @Forever21 and they gave her a sample item... the sample item was an Atkins bar!! Are you kidding me?!?” Looks like the early aughts are back in style at Forever 21, and not just because of the Marissa Cooper-inspired baby tees!

A quick search on Twitter shows multiple people complaining about the bars that came with their orders, and though Forever 21 appears to be sending them with every order, not just plus-sized ones, the Atkins bar inclusion risks a body-shaming tone. The practice “sends a wildly dangerous message to ALL of its customers,” wrote editor Samantha Puc. “Not only is it fatshaming, it could also trigger people of all sizes who have [eating disorders]. This is as dangerous as it is inappropriate.”

Kat Ravioli tells Eater she ordered a plus-size pleated mini skirt from Forever 21 on July 17, and was appalled to find the Atkins bar with her order. “There were no notes at all, just the pre-packaged sample,” she said. “I felt disgusted when I opened it, as if some sort of sick joke was being played on me. As someone who struggles with depression and have had a past riddled with disordered eating, this was the last thing I wanted to see along with my order.” Ravioli says she no longer wants to shop with Forever 21 after the incident. “It’s really frustrating because they do make cute clothes for plus sized bodies, but they’ve made it very clear that we don’t matter beyond our wallets.”

The lemon bar sent with the order is part of Atkins’ snack collection, which they advertise as a way to “stick with your low carb diet,” a trend driven by Atkins and peaking sometime around 2003. The two main prompts on the Atkins website read “LOSE WEIGHT” and “LIVE LOW CARB.” Some researchers suggest those on a low-carb diet were more likely to die of heart disease, but aside from the health risks, the presence of a diet bar on the top of a box of clothing definitely sends the message — especially to young women — that dieting is fundamental.

Though most fashion brands have still been reluctant to include plus-sizes in their lines, Forever 21 does have a large plus-size line, which makes the messaging even more frustrating. The diet bars, intentionally or not, target a semi-captive audience, as plus-size customers have few other options than to continue shopping there. We’ve reached out to Forever 21 and Atkins for details on the partnership and response to the backlash. Eater will update if and when we hear back.

Update: July 23, 2019, 5:00 p.m.: In a statement, Forever 21 says “From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”

Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day