The rise of GLP-1 weight loss drugs, notably Ozempic and Wegovy, is transforming the way users approach their dietary habits and preferences. Not only are these medications shifting the paradigm of weight management, but they’re also driving notable changes in food consumption, purchase behavior and soon in the offerings of major food brands, supermarkets and restaurants.
Recently, John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., created quite a stir in the food world when he said that Walmart is analyzing shopper data to determine the shopping and spending habits of their shoppers who are taking Ozempic and Wegovy (Walmart pharmacies sell both drugs). Furner stated in an interview with Bloomberg that Walmart sees a slight change in basket size for those on the drugs vs. their overall shopper population — his quote “Just less units, slightly less calories.” Following his interview, many CEOs of food brands reacted ranging the gamut from no effect on their portfolios to watching the space closely.
Ozempic and Wegovy, while having distinct mechanisms, both have one thing in common: They modify appetite. They make users feel full sooner, reduce the desire to eat and lower blood sugar. This, in turn, influences the type and amount of food users consume, and since the weight loss happens quickly, it serves as a reinforcement of the behavior change. Individuals on these medications are likely to gravitate towards smaller portions and often make healthier choices as recommended by physicians and dietitians as they become more conscious of their intake. While medications like Ozempic and Wegovy can help and certainly offer a jump-start, diet and lifestyle modifications are fundamental to achieving long term and stable weight loss, which reinforces the need for supermarkets in particular to expand their in-store dietitian and consult services. These weight loss medications should not be seen as a replacement for a healthy diet — and these medications are expensive, $900-$1000 a month if not covered by a prescription plan, which at present limits its uses to the populations that can afford them.
There are two important surveys to analyze and bring our members closer to the future.
The first, “Could Obesity Drugs Take a Bite out of the Food Industry,” was published by Morgan Stanley Research last month. In it, their analysts estimate that 24 million people, or 7% of the U.S. population, will be taking the drugs by 2035. To put that number in perspective, that’s the same percentage of Asian adults living in the United States. Morgan Stanley points to their survey of 300 patients taking either one of the weight loss drugs and discovered that they reduced their calorie intake by 20% to 30% daily and have seen their grocery bills decrease by approximately 20%.
“Assessing the Wider Implication of a Slimmer Society” was published in late September by Jefferies Equity Research Team which forecasted that the GLP-1 weight loss drugs market could be greater than a $100 billion global market. Jeffries also surveyed 800 current users of the drugs and what they found has serious impact on our foods and beverages sector. Seventy percent were more aware of the nutritional value of their food and beverage choices, which is great news for health and wellness professionals who have been urging their consumers to do just that for decades. The survey also highlighted findings that should be a wakeup call to CPG brands, supermarkets, restaurants and others:
- 25% drank less alcohol.
- 46% drank less soda.
- 44% ate less salty snacks.
- 44% ate less carbs.
- 43% ate fewer sweet snacks.
- 30% ate less dairy.
- 44% ate smaller amounts of food when at a restaurant.
- 42% said they went to a restaurant less often.
- 42% ate less fast food and pizza.
On the positive side:
- 43% ate more fruits and vegetables.
- 36% ate more protein.
- 35% ate more healthier snacks.
Here’s some of the changes that we can expect to witness:
- Shift towards portion-controlled products: As users are eating less, there’s a growing demand for smaller, portion-controlled packets. This ensures minimal food waste and aligns with the reduced appetite.
- Health-focused products will gain market share: As these weight loss drug patients become more health-conscious, the demand for organic, low-fat, sugar-free and other health-related products will surge.
- Increased demand for high protein, low carb foods: Given that these medications are often prescribed alongside recommendations for protein-rich diets, foods that are high in protein and low in carbs will witness increased popularity.
- New product lines: Many established food brands are introducing healthier versions of their popular products. This includes reduced sugar, low fat or fortified with essential nutrients.
- Marketing adjustments: Brands are modifying their marketing strategies to appeal to this new segment of the population. Advertisements will highlight health benefits, protein content and other attributes that resonate with the weight-conscious audience.
- Transparency is key: Brands are already becoming more transparent about their ingredient lists, ensuring consumers are well-aware of what they are consuming. This includes clearer labeling and readily available nutritional information.
- Diverse product range: The demand for a wider variety of health products means supermarkets are diversifying their stock, ensuring they cater to the needs of all consumers, especially those on medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.
- Smaller portions: Recognizing the reduced appetite of many diners, restaurants will be introducing smaller portion sizes or the option of large and small portions.
- Healthy menus: Many eateries now offer a “health menu” section, featuring dishes that are low in calories, carbs and sugars, but rich in proteins and essential nutrients. Expect to see symbols appear on menus to make the foods designed to meet the weight loss drug meal recommendations easy to find (similar designations to what we already see now on menus for Fair Trade or organic, for example).
- Nutritional information: In a bid for transparency, restaurants will be forced to provide detailed nutritional information for their dishes, helping weight loss (and all) diners make informed choices.
- A reimagining of weight loss: Companies and services like Weight Watchers, Atkins, Noom and Jenny Craig may lose clients as well as having an effect on the total sector in the U.S., which Marketdata reports to be a $72.6 billion a year business and includes: health clubs, commercial weight loss programs, medical weight loss programs, bariatric surgeries, diet drugs, fasting supplements, appetite suppressants, OTC with loss supplements/diet pills, weight loss apps, diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, diet dinners and low calorie foods.
The influence of weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy is far-reaching. As they reshape the dietary habits of users, they are indirectly pushing industries to evolve and cater to the new norms. This ripple effect benefits not just those on the medication, but also the broader population, as the increased availability of health-focused foods and transparency in labeling helps everyone make more informed, healthier food choices.
This era marks not just a transformation in dietary habits but also a broader shift towards a health-conscious society.