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EXCLUSIVE: Are Grocers Changing Their Attitude Towards Weight Loss Drugs?

Progressive Grocer talks with Mintel food and drink director about the effects of GLP-1 on food retailing
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Weight loss drug
As weight loss and diabetes management drugs have garnered consumers interest, grocers and brands can take the opportunity to provide solutions and education.

When GLP-1 drugs burst on the scene and subsequently surged in popularity – and in public discourse – those who produce and provide food and beverages to consumers swiftly took notice. Over the past year and a half, there has been much talk about the impact of weight loss and diabetes management medications, with concerns about a potential downturn in sales of snacks, desserts and other foods.

Food companies are starting to lean into evolving attitudes and behavior. Last month, for example, Nestlé introduced a Vital Pursuit line of frozen foods designed for people prescribed GLP-1 drugs. Outside grocery, GNC nutrition stores have added dedicated areas in their stores to consumers on these and other weight loss medications, while WeightWatchers started a WeightWatchers Clinic through which members can access weight loss and diabetes drugs via telehealth-based prescriptions. 

With brands, retailers and services getting the ball rolling, what are some opportunities for CPGs and grocers to meet shoppers’ shifting cravings and habits? Progressive Grocer recently spoke with Jenny Zegler, director of food and drink at Mintel, to sort out perceptions and misperceptions about the much-buzzed-about drugs. According to Mintel, 13% of U.S. adults agree with the statement that diabetes drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are good solutions for weight loss. 

Progressive Grocer: How can – and maybe should – food retailers and food manufacturers put the impact of GLP-1 meds into perspective?

Jenny Zegler: It’s not necessarily the watershed moment for the food and drink industry. My colleague Lynn (Dornblaser) and I have talked about it and she phrased it beautifully – "This is just another tool in the toolkit for consumers.” For some, this may be the breakthrough they need. For others, this may be something they can try and go off and then try to find ways to maintain the weight loss. And there will be some who turn to it for a short-term fix. I feel that this has a smaller consumer base than a lot of investors are thinking.

PG: What does Nestle’s investment in a frozen foods line centered on GLP-1 users say about this market?

JZ: The Vital Pursuit line really indicates that you can learn to adapt and pivot. This line is built around nutrition and provides fiber, protein and essential nutrients. It recognizes what GLP-1 users may need, or, really, anyone on weight management, and reaches people on these drugs who want convenient options, because not everyone in their family are taking these medications. 

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Emphasizing nutrition is a smart new direction. We’ve had protein trends and fiber trends, but this brings it all together in a convenient option.

PG: On another level, how is the introduction of GLP-1 medications changing the overall conversation about food?

JZ: It’s really opening up a dialogue about understanding obesity as a disease. If you have tried and failed to lose weight or have constant food thoughts, that’s where these drugs offer a biological intervention, and also introduce new concepts into the dialogue. Again, it’s about having all of these different tools in the toolkit – I can do diet and exercise or choose medical intervention. 

Also, there is a level of trying to remove judgment, and I feel like it’s an incredible reversal of what we saw in the 1980s and ‘90s. These drugs create a new option and it can help the cultural conversation for acceptance.  

PG: How can grocers get in on this conversation and help their customers?

JZ: We have to consider that people on these drugs are adjusting to new habits. We can help them as they navigate the store, maybe with an end cap with certain products or an app that can help people on weight management programs. Weight management shouldn’t just be talked about for New Year’s resolutions. 

Consumers are looking for allies, looking for convenience and looking for reasons to trust in companies and help them with decisions. 

PG: Retail dietitians can play a role in this, too. 

JZ:  Yes, on-staff nutritionists can help people understand things like “How much protein do you need?” “What is your goal right now?” or “If you are on these drugs, then…” It’s an opportunity to talk to people. Education is still needed.

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