(AP Photo/Michael Conroy) Jared Fogle is more than just a fast food icon. He's a pop culture icon.
The 37-year-old Indiana native became the face of Subway 15 years ago after he lost 245 pounds primarily by eating the chain's sandwiches.
Subway contacted him after hearing his story and hired him in 2000 as a spokesman. His story helped customers see Subway as a healthy choice, and over the next decade, the chain's sales nearly tripled.
Fogle is now one of the most recognizable faces in the fast food industry, and is worth an estimated $15 million, The New York Daily News reported in 2013.
But his long relationship with Subway took an unexpected turn this week.
Fogle hasn't been arrested or charged with any crimes, But all mentions of his name have been removed from Subway's website. The website for Fogle's charity to help end childhood obesity, the Jared Foundation — whose director was arrested two months ago on federal child-pornography charges — was down on Tuesday.
Here's how Fogle went from Subway celebrity to shunned spokesman.
(Matt Sayles/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images)
The birth of the 'Subway diet'
Jared Fogle famously lost over 200 pounds more than 15 years ago.
Before starting his Subway diet, he was a 425-pound student at Indiana University, reported The Daily News.
Food assuaged him. "Food was a comfort to me. It replaced personal relationships. It replaced extra-curricular activities. It replaced everything in my life," he told CBS in 2004.
CBS noted that he would consume 10,000 calories on some days, including an entire pizza for lunch.
At age 20, he decided to turn things around, and came up with the idea of subsisting solely on sandwiches from the Subway shop near his apartment. His unconventional — but clearly effective — diet including skipping breakfast.
"He started skipping breakfast, and ate just two subs a day, a small turkey and a large veggie, along with some baked potato chips, and diet soda," according to CBS. "Soon, he cut his daily consumption from 10,000 calories a day to just 2,000."
It takes eliminating roughly 3,500 calories to lose a pound. Eliminating close to 8,000 calories a week is quick way to let the weight fall off.
Jared's rise to Subway stardom
Subway caught wind of Jared's dramatic transformation, and hired him to be their official spokesperson.
His jeans from before his weight loss became iconic.
Over the last 15 years, he has filmed more than 300 TV commercials for Subway.
With Fogle at the forefront of Subway's image, sales soared. Nation's Restaurant News [via The Daily News] noted that sales nearly tripled to $11.5 billion in 2011, from around $3 billion in 1998.
The company's chief marketing officer told the Daily News in 2013 that one-third to one-half of the company's growth over the previous 15 years could be attributable to Jared. And a study by Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics found that Subway rated very highly for being relatable because of him, AdAge reported in 2010.
On a personal level, despite a blip in his own weight loss narrative in 2010 (he gained 40 pounds, People reported), he wed Katie McLaughlin in 2010 and completed the New York City Marathon that same year. He appeared at many events. He told People that year "was [his] new beginning."
He had become a celebrity. He was even parodied on "South Park," which he later told Men's Health "was surreal." He even wrote a book called "Jared, The Subway Guy: Winning Through Losing: 13 Lessons for Turning Your Life Around."
He used his recognizable name to launch The Jared Foundation to help put an end to childhood obesity.
An uncertain future
But Fogle's reputation took a hit on July 7, when the FBI conducted an 11-hour raid of his Zionsville, Indiana home.
Fox59 broke news of the raid. "FBI sources told FOX59 state and federal and state investigators were serving warrants at Fogle's Zionsville home in connection with a child-pornography investigation," wrote the news site.
(Michael Conroy/AP Images) Fogle's attorney, Ron Elberger, told ABC: "Jared has been cooperating, and continues to cooperate, with law enforcement in their investigation of unspecified charges, and looks forward to its conclusion."
We are shocked about the news & believe it is related to a former Jared Foundation employee. We are monitoring the situation closely.— SUBWAY® (@SUBWAY) July 7, 2015
The "Jared Foundation employee" to which Subway was referring was likely Russell Taylor, who was arrested on federal child pornography charges two months ago.
The Jared Foundation severed ties with Taylor following his arrest.
Hours after its initial statement on the probe, Subway suspended its relationship with Fogle.
Subway & Jared Fogle have agreed to suspend their relationship due to the current investigation. Jared is cooperating with authorities.— SUBWAY® (@SUBWAY) July 7, 2015
Fogle has not been arrested, but his fan base is rapidly eroding. Some have commented on Facebook stating they would forego eating Subway sandwiches because of the investigation. The Twitter hashtag #JaredFogle has no shortage of obscene double entendres deriding Fogle.
However, one Subway employee noted on Facebook that employees have "nothing to do with this [Fogle's controversy]," and losing patronage could hurt employees' livelihoods.
Regardless of the current investigation, Fogle undoubtedly contributed to Subway's rise.
"[Jared's] story played a huge role in Subway’s] growth," Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation of market research company Technomic, told the Associated Press. “It’s not just Jared the man, it’s what it represents.”
It's uncertain if the controversy will affect Subway.
Fortunately for Fogle, many Subway fans are blasting the chain for severing ties with him before any charges have been made. Some have gone so far to say that if Subway abandons Fogle, they will abandon Subway, too.
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