Nestle, Coke, Danone taking cautious approach to serving Ozempic users, ET HealthWorld

Nestle, Coke, Danone taking cautious approach to serving Ozempic users, ET HealthWorld


by Jessica DiNapoli

NEW YORK: Nestle's new food brand for people taking weight-loss drugs such as Wegovy will mention that the meals are high in protein, fibre and nutrients but will not mention the blockbuster drugs by name, a company official told Reuters.

Tom Moe, Nestle USA food president, said in a recent interview that the world's largest food maker is removing drug names from packaging because of regulatory concerns. He said Nestle will instead market its Vital Pursuit line of frozen meals priced $5 and under on social media.

“We will not state a direct link to drugs on food packages,” Moe said.

Nestle's hesitation to name drugs such as Novo Nordisk's Wegovy and Ozempic on its packaging highlights the uncertainty facing global food companies as they bet big on selling tailor-made products to millions of people who take appetite-suppressing drugs.

These drugs, from a class of medicines called GLP-1 agonists, threaten to hit the profits of snack makers and fast food chains because people taking them are drastically cutting down on their food intake.

When its Fajita Melts and pizzas arrive in store freezers this fall, Nestlé will face a host of competitors making specific claims about their products targeted at people taking these drugs.

The maker of the drink, called BioCare, which sells for $4.50 a serving, claims on the packaging that it “may reduce side effects” such as nausea in people taking semaglutides, a reference to the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic.

These medications can cause gastrointestinal side effects, but doctors advise people using them to keep eating, especially protein-rich foods, to maintain energy and prevent muscle loss.

Herbalife sells the shakes in a bundle for $185.10, which it claims can help people meet their nutritional needs while on a “shot,” as injectable drugs are sometimes colloquially called.

Retailers such as supplement-seller GNC are also trying to capitalize on the trend by launching a section in stores dedicated to GLP-1 users, selling protein powders and fiber.

Nestlé could face regulatory scrutiny over mentioning weight-loss drugs on the packaging of Vital Pursuit products.

“We're not a drug, we're a food product,” Moe said.

Lauren Handel, a lawyer specializing in foods, said mentioning drugs could imply that the food somehow treats or prevents disease, a claim that only drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can make.

“This is a tricky area where you have to be careful about what you say,” Handel said. “The safest approach is to not mention any kind of medication at all.”

He said the same rules apply to advertising. Labeling items as “suitable for people on a diet” or as a “companion” to medications may comply with FDA rules. “Some companies will take more risks,” he said.

Nestle declined to say whether it would mention these drugs in advertisements.

'An absolute game changer'

Herbalife is taking a more direct approach, saying on Facebook: “Are you using a GLP-1 weight loss medication? Meet your nutritional needs using Herbalife's GLP-1 Companion Pack.”

Robard Corp., the maker of BioCare, said it is marketing the beverage through a “strong influencer community, all of whom are taking GLP-1s.” Other drugs in this class include Eli Lilly's Monjaro and Zepbound.

Biocare influencer Ashley Dunham, of Jacksonville, Florida, said in a TikTok video that the product has been a “total game changer” when it came to maintaining her weight after losing 100 pounds (45.4 kg).

Coca-Cola and yogurt maker Danone say many of their products are suitable for people taking medications because they are either low in sugar or high in protein.

Coke's Fairlife shakes contain up to 42 grams of protein, which are often promoted by social media influencers who use the drug.

The spokesperson said Fairlife does not have any paid partners or influencers who link the shakes to GLP-1 or weight loss, nor does it provide them with free product or other incentives.

Healthy Choice food maker Conagra Brands also will remove the drug's name from the packaging of foods marketed to people using these medications, officials told Reuters this month.

Megan Bullock, director of strategic insights at Conagra, said using the names could offend people who aren't taking medications but would still consider buying the food.

Bob Nolan, the company's vice president of demand science, said Conagra will focus on attributes of its existing products, such as protein or fiber content, to help consumers using GLP-1s understand if this food is right for them.

ConAgra is not currently developing new brands for people using these medications, but executives said they see an opportunity to sell greater volumes of frozen meals to those people.

Kelly Frias, a marketing professor at American University, said consumers still don't have clear information about what they should eat while taking medications.

He said food companies are “trying to make new connections.” “We don't have those connections in our minds unless we're taught them.” (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

  • Published on June 20, 2024 at 05:52 PM IST

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