Major food manufacturers have already acknowledged that the sudden and extreme popularity of a new generation of weight loss drugsif they don’t adapt.
Semaglutides like Ozempic and Wegovy, prescribed to treat Type 2 diabetes, are also now being used for weight loss given that they suppress the appetite. Food makers are keeping a close eye on how they might change Americans’ consumption patterns on a large scale.
“Food companies are really in the early stages of trying to assess what the impact is going to be,” Jesse Newman, food and agriculture reporter for the Wall Street Journal, told CBS News.
Investors in major food brands are also “concerned that this could threaten sales down the road,” she added.
But in addition to threatening a potential reduction in demand from suppressed consumption, the drugs could also present new opportunities for food makers.
It’s still unclear if the weight loss drug craze is just a phase that will someday end or if more Americans will start using the medications regularly, and for life.
If the latter, another unknown would be how much, and what types of food people who take the drugs should eat to stay healthy,
“So [food makers] are starting to do their research and brainstorm ways to respond,” Newman said.
Some are already developing “companion” products for patients who take the drugs, according to Newman. That includes food products people can consume “if they’re concerned about not getting enough nutrition because they’re eating less, or if they’re looking to boost their muscle mass,” Newman said.
Vitamin supplements, companion products
Industry analysts expect to see softer demand for unhealthy, high-fat foods over time. Even Walmart said it’s already feeling that effect.
“We definitely do see a slight change compared to the total population, we do see a slight pullback in overall basket,” Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner told Bloomberg in October. “Just less units, slightly less calories.”
Food and beverage company Nestlé, also said in October that it is working on developing companion products to the drugs.
Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider said in an earnings briefing that the company is developing supplements to help people on the drugs get the vitamins and nutrients they might need when consuming fewer calories. Such products they say could also help patients retain muscle mass.
“There are a number of these companion products that companies are starting to talk about as a way to ensure that patients are getting the nutrients and micronutrients that they need while consuming fewer calories,” Newman said.
Abbott Laboratories has also announced a protein-laden drink that can be used by consumers taking the drugs, according to Newman.
In addition to adding more protein, vitamins and nutrients to existing products that might appeal to people on the drugs, brands are also rethinking portion sizes, and rolling out smaller versions of products they already sell, he said.
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