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Weight Watchers announces free memberships for teens

Weight Watchers is offering free memberships to teenagers. Teens between the ages of 13 and 17 can join Weight Watchers at no cost for six weeks during the summer of 2018, the company announced Tuesday.

Weight Watchers expects the recruitment tactic could make young customers loyal for years.

The company said it wants to help young people develop good habits at a critical age. By the end of 2020, it aims to have 5 million people in the Weight Watchers program.

Weight Watchers also plans to remove artificial ingredients from its products.

The company said its new initiative would help it grow sales more than 67% from 2016 to more than $2 billion by the end of 2020. Its revenue reached about $1.2 billion in 2016. The company has not yet reported its 2017 sales.

Shares of the company jumped about 16% on the news.

Weight Watchers has been working for years to shed its reputation as a diet and weight-loss company and recast itself as a health and wellness brand that helps people lead healthy lives.

“I am inspired to be part of this purpose-driven mission as we deepen and expand our connection to communities, making wellness accessible to everyone,” said Oprah Winfrey, who owns a 10% stake in the company, sits on its board and serves as its spokeswoman.

Alex Fuhrman, an analyst with Craig Hallum, said that the high revenue target is making the stock look especially attractive.

He was also impressed by the company’s new initiatives.

Weight Watchers said it had 3.4 million subscribers, which includes people who attend the company’s regular weight management meetings and those who use the company’s digital products, as of September 2017.

It’s already been a strong year for the brand.

In early January, shares spiked after Weight Watchers announced that it signed DJ Khaled as a “social media ambassador.”

The popular music producer, who has millions of followers across his social media platforms, touted his weight loss and encouraged people to “come with me on my journey to greatness.”

Weight Watchers stock soared again later that month when Winfrey made headlines for a Golden Globes speech that had some wondering if she might run for president.