Ozempic and a Protein Shake: Food Makers Prep Weight-Loss-Drug Side Dishes | Mint
Active Stocks
Wed Feb 28 2024 15:59:21
  1. Tata Motors share price
  2. 957.75 -0.52%
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 140.75 -2.36%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,408.15 -0.87%
  1. Power Grid Corporation Of India share price
  2. 279.55 -4.43%
  1. ITC share price
  2. 408.60 -0.62%
Business News/ Science / Ozempic and a Protein Shake: Food Makers Prep Weight-Loss-Drug Side Dishes
BackBack

Ozempic and a Protein Shake: Food Makers Prep Weight-Loss-Drug Side Dishes

wsj

Startups and other food makers are pitching their products as natural alternatives or companion products for patients.

Ozempic and similar drugs have surged in popularity in the U.S., sparking concern among some investors that broader adoption could threaten food companies’ sales in years to come.Premium
Ozempic and similar drugs have surged in popularity in the U.S., sparking concern among some investors that broader adoption could threaten food companies’ sales in years to come.

Ozempic, Wegovy and other popular new drugs help people lose weight by eating less. Some food makers have spotted an opportunity.

From startups to industry stalwarts, food companies are pitching their products as natural alternatives to the drugs or developing companion products for patients.

Ozempic and similar drugs have surged in popularity in the U.S., sparking concern among some investors that broader adoption could threaten food companies’ sales in years to come.

Big food makers are paying attention as demand for the drugs soars, prompting questions about whether and how they will reshape American diets. Many food executives say they aren’t sweating the drugs’ precipitous rise, and that any sizable drop in calorie consumption is years away, plenty of time for companies to adapt their portfolios as they have in response to past consumer trends.

Nestlé, the world’s largest food maker, said in October that it is working to create companion products that could help drug patients at risk of losing muscle mass or not getting enough nutrition. Other new products could help patients avoid or limit weight gain after they stop taking the medications, according to the Swiss packaged-foods company, which operates a large health-science business.

Nestlé Chief Executive Mark Schneider said the company has been assessing the drugs for some time, and that new products could hit the market as soon as next year. Nestlé already sells products that could complement patients’ diets, Schneider said, such as drinks, bars, shakes and soup mixes.

Abbott Laboratories, which makes medical devices as well as Ensure shakes and powders, is designing a protein-laden nutrition drink that could boost muscle mass in weight-loss-drug patients, CEO Robert Ford said. General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening said that the maker of Lucky Charms cereal and Bisquick pancake mix is working on products suited to drug patients looking for more protein in their diets.

Many patients aim to increase their protein intake to offset lost muscle mass as they shed pounds, according to food-industry analysts. Bernstein research found that many people currently or recently on weight-loss drugs are eating more protein—and foods such as fruit, eggs, yogurt, soup and cottage cheese—while cutting back significantly on junk food and foods with added sugars.

In Chicago, Michael Pfeifer said that he has been leaning away from packaged snacks and toward high-protein foods since he began taking weight-loss drugs last year. He has doubled his monthly egg consumption and is eating more chicken, turkey and nuts.

Pfeifer has also become an avid drinker of protein shakes, and tested a variety for flavor, protein and sugar content before landing on his favorite: a chocolate shake from Coca‑Cola’s Fairlife.

“Some tasted like chemicals, others tasted like sugar," said Pfeifer. “Or left that protein aftertaste in your mouth."

Food analysts say many companies might take their time deciding whether and how to adapt their offerings, especially because it remains unclear how many people will start the drugs, and stay on them long term. Companies could offer smaller portion sizes of existing products, reformulate others by adding protein or fortifying them with vitamins and minerals, or develop new ones altogether, analysts said.

“If you’re not feeling particularly hungry, then drinking calories is one solution," said Bernstein analyst Alexia Howard, adding that some drug patients also express less desire to cook meals than before.

BellRing Brands, which sells protein shakes and powders, said in November that its existing products already appeal to weight-loss-drug patients but that it is also considering new formulations with micronutrients people might need as they eat less. BellRing CEO Darcy Horn Davenport said the company could market its products to patient support groups, nurses and dietitians.

BellRing’s research shows consumers most likely to take weight-loss drugs are light users of protein shakes today, but would become heavy users once on the medication, Davenport said.

BellRing’s shares have doubled in the past 12 months while the S&P 500 Packaged Food & Meat subindex has dropped 14%. The company on Nov. 20 reported a 22% rise in revenue over the past 12 months.

Other food companies see an opening for products they say mimic the drugs, but without the pricey prescription.

One startup, called Supergut, is working to translate fervor over the drugs into sales of its shakes, mixes and bars made from a proprietary prebiotic fiber blend, which the company calls “nature’s Ozempic." Eating certain types of prebiotic fiber boosts the production of the same gut hormones affected by weight-loss drugs, naturally reducing cravings, the company said.

Sales of Supergut’s products, derived from foods such as green bananas, potatoes and oats, have soared 50% in the past month, said CEO Marc Washington. Originally designed for Type 2 diabetes patients, Supergut’s products are now headed to grocery-store shelves after the company began marketing them to a wider audience last year, Washington said.

Washington said Supergut is also attracting people transitioning off the drugs who are eager to maintain their benefits. “Sick of the prick?" a Supergut Instagram post asks, referencing the injections the drugs require.

Pete Levangie, CEO of Massachusetts-based ingredients supplier Bay State Milling, said he is working to educate food makers and restaurants on the Ozempic-like qualities of prebiotic fiber, found in the company’s flagship high-fiber wheat flour.

Bay State’s HealthSense wheat flour contains more prebiotic fiber than traditional flour and currently makes up a fraction of Bay State’s overall business. Levangie, who sells oats, grains and flours that go into breads, pastas and pizzas, said he expects sales to grow sharply in coming years as awareness grows about prebiotic fiber’s benefits.

Last year, Colorado-based Noodles & Co.introduced a pasta made with Bay State’s HealthSense. The restaurant chain bills the LEANguini pasta as having fewer carbs and more protein than traditional wheat pasta noodles, while maintaining the same taste and texture.

Stacey Pool, chief marketing officer for Noodles, said the chain is working with a culinary consultant to better understand the needs of customers, including weight loss, and that it could promote the pasta’s higher fiber content in the future, or create more noodles using the high-fiber wheat flour.

“We’re very early on in building awareness around this product," Pool said.

Write to Jesse Newman at jesse.newman@wsj.com

Unlock a world of Benefits! From insightful newsletters to real-time stock tracking, breaking news and a personalized newsfeed – it's all here, just a click away! Login Now!

Next Story footLogo
Recommended For You
Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App