The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "big food companies and investors are watching as Ozempic and other similar weight-loss drugs flow to millions of people, upending America’s diet industry and raising new questions about how consumers will eat."
Here's the concern: People who take drugs such as Ozempic could "cut their daily calorie consumption by as much as 30% … for a person on a 2,000-calorie diet, that could mean eliminating a one-ounce bag of salted potato chips, a bottle of soda and more each day."
Which isn't good news if you manufacture or retail potato chips and soda. It also isn't good news if you are in a segment of the diet food/drink business that doesn't have the same buzz as these new drugs.
There are a lot of people taking these drugs. The Journal reports that "Morgan Stanley has projected that 24 million people, or nearly 7% of the U.S. population, will be taking such medications in 2035."
Indeed, Bloomberg reports that Walmart "says it’s already seeing an impact on shopping demand from people taking the diabetes drug Ozempic, Wegovy and other appetite-suppressing medications … The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is studying changes in sales patterns using anonymized data on shopper populations. It can look at the purchasing changes among people taking the drug and can also compare those habits to similar people who aren’t taking the shots."
“We definitely do see a slight change compared to the total population, we do see a slight pullback in overall basket,” John Furner, the chief executive officer of Walmart’s sprawling US operation, said in an interview Wednesday. “Just less units, slightly less calories.”
The Journal story says that "the rise of Ozempic and other weight-loss drugs comes as sales growth is slowing for big food companies as consumers begin to balk at higher prices. Sales roared for food companies as consumers stocked pantries with major brands during the Covid-19 pandemic, and paid more for groceries when inflation took hold."
Concerns aren't universal: "Some Wall Street analysts and food-industry consultants said they don’t view Ozempic, made by Novo Nordisk, and other weight-loss drugs as a big risk for now. The drugs remain expensive and inaccessible to many Americans, they said, and widespread or long-term adoption isn’t guaranteed, with some people experiencing unpleasant side effects such as nausea and diarrhea. It is also still unclear which foods patients may opt to eat while taking the drugs, they said."
- KC's View:
The question that immediately occurs to me is whether this represent a long-term sea change in how people deal with weight issues, or is it just a fad that could recede over time. Or, perhaps more likely, be seen as a more risky approach to losing weight because of issues that emerge over time.
I'll be honest. I've always fought with my weight, and it is a tougher battle the older I get. The idea of a magic medicine that could address the issue sounds wonderful, but I worry both about the long-term health implications and about the possibility that I won't enjoy food as much as I do.
For people who eat to live, this isn't as much a choice. But for people like me to live to eat, it is much harder.