Nestle & Coca-Cola Cautious Ozempic Users

Nestle Caters To Ozempic Users

Nestle’s new food brand for people taking weight-loss drugs like Wegovy will highlight that the meals are high in protein, fiber, and nutrients, but will not name the blockbuster medications, a company executive told Reuters.

The world’s largest food maker is avoiding mentioning the names of the drugs on the packaging due to regulatory concerns, said Tom Moe, Nestle USA’s president of meals, in a recent interview. Instead, Nestle will market its Vital Pursuit line of $5-and-under frozen meals on social media.

“We won’t directly make the connection (to the drugs) on the food package,” Moe said.

Nestle’s caution in naming drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Ozempic on its packaging highlights the uncertainty global food companies face as they invest in products specifically geared towards millions of people taking these appetite-suppressing medications.

These medications, from a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists, threaten to impact the profits of snack makers and fast-food chains as users significantly reduce their food intake. When Nestle’s fajita melts and pizzas hit store freezers this autumn, they will compete against a sea of products making specific claims about targeting people on these medications.

For instance, Biocare, a drink retailing at $4.50 per serving, advertises on its packaging that it can “alleviate side effects” such as nausea for people taking semaglutides, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic.

Although these medications can cause gastrointestinal side effects, doctors recommend that users maintain their energy and avoid losing muscle by consuming protein-rich foods. Herbalife, for example, sells shakes in a bundle for $185.10, claiming to meet nutritional needs while on “the shot,” as these injectable drugs are colloquially known.

Retailers like GNC are also capitalizing on this trend by introducing store sections dedicated to GLP-1 users, offering protein powder and fiber supplements.

Mentioning weight-loss drugs on Vital Pursuit product packaging could expose Nestle to regulatory scrutiny. “We’re not a medication, we’re a food product,” Moe emphasized. Referencing these medications could imply that the food treats or prevents disease, a claim only FDA-approved products can make, according to Lauren Handel, an attorney specializing in food. “It’s a tricky area where you’d want to be careful about what you say,” Handel said. “The safest course of action is not to mention any drugs.”

The same caution applies to advertising, she added. Labeling items as “suitable for people on a diet” or as “companions” to the medications may comply with FDA regulations. “Some companies will take more risk,” Handel noted. Nestle declined to say whether it will refer to the drugs in advertisements.

Absolute Game Changer

Herbalife adopts a more direct approach, stating on Facebook: “Using a GLP-1 weight-loss drug? Support your nutritional needs by using Herbalife’s GLP-1 Companion Pack.” Herbalife Chief Commercial Officer Frank Lamberti explained that the company chose GLP-1 instead of brand names like Ozempic to avoid alienating users of rival drugs, such as Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound, or those who have quit the medications but still monitor their weight.

Robard Corp, which produces Biocare, is marketing the drink through a “strong influencer community who are all taking GLP-1s.” Influencer Ashley Dunham from Jacksonville, Florida, stated in a TikTok video that Biocare has been an “absolute game changer” in maintaining her weight after losing 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms).

Coca-Cola and yogurt-maker Danone also claim many of their products are ideal for people taking these medications due to their low sugar or high protein content. Coke’s Fairlife shakes, which contain up to 42 grams of protein, are frequently promoted on social media by users of these medications. However, Fairlife does not have any paid partners or influencers linking the shakes to GLP-1s or weight loss and does not target them with free products or other incentives, a spokesperson said. The company has heard from consumers using the medications that they like the shakes.

Healthy Choice meal maker Conagra Brands will also avoid mentioning drug names on food packaging marketed to GLP-1 users, executives told Reuters this month. Using drug names could deter those not taking the drugs but who might still consider buying the food, said Megan Bullock, director of strategic insights at Conagra. The company will focus on the attributes of its existing products, such as protein or fiber content, to help GLP-1 users recognize that the food is suitable for them, explained Bob Nolan, Conagra’s vice president of demand science.

Conagra is not currently developing new brands specifically for GLP-1 users but sees potential in selling more frozen meals to them. Kelli Frias, a marketing professor at American University, noted that consumers do not yet have clear ideas of what to eat while on these medications. Food companies are “trying to create new associations,” she said. “We don’t have those associations in our mind until we’re taught them.”