“The craving just isn’t there”: How Ozempic is influencing snack culture – National |

Weight loss drugs like Ozempic could shake up the food industry. A recent report shows Canadians taking certain medications are tightening their belts on restaurant outings, snacking and alcohol consumption.

A Report published on Tuesday The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax estimates that between 900,000 and 1.4 million Canadians use GLP-1 receptor agonists. These are a group of medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes and are often used to combat obesity. They trigger insulin release, reduce glucose production in your liver and make you feel full. Examples of these drugs include Ozempic, Wegovy and Saxenda.

In recent years, the popularity of Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic, a type 2 diabetes drug also known for its off-label use for weight loss, has increased tremendously. Demand for Ozempic and its sister drug Wegovy is so high that there have also been shortages in Canada.

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Click here to play the video: “High demand leads to shortages of diabetes drugs”

High demand leads to shortage of diabetes drugs

“The use of GLP-1 drugs is already impacting the food industry…” “The desire just isn’t there,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab.

“Many people have reported making different food choices and behaving differently both in the supermarket and in the restaurant. When they go to restaurants, they eat less, less sweets, less chocolate and drink less alcohol.”

As more Canadians begin using Ozempic and other related weight-loss medications, researchers at Dalhousie University sought to examine the potential impact of this shift on future trends in the food industry.

Researchers surveyed more than 8,000 Canadians in December 2023 to understand the consumption rate of GLP-1 drugs, their purpose and their impact on people’s dietary habits.

The results found that about 10 percent of the adult population uses some type of GLP-1 drug, with this level being higher in men than in women. Use of the drug remains consistent across age groups, with Millennials leading the way with a use rate of 12 percent, closely followed by Generation X at 11 percent and Baby Boomers and Generation Z at 10 percent.

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According to the report, Ontario has the highest usage rate at 13 percent, while Prince Edward Island has the lowest rate at four percent.

When asked about the reason for taking a GLP-1 drug, 57 percent of respondents attributed it to treating type 2 diabetes, 27 percent cited weight loss as the primary reason, and 11 percent said it was for both purposes .

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“We estimate that between 250,000 and 400,000 people in Canada use a GLP-1 drug to lose weight. So that’s about the size of Halifax,” Charlebois told Global News.

How does Ozempic change food choices?

Many businesses rely heavily on impulse purchases of food and beverages, whether it’s grabbing a bag of chips while waiting in line at the grocery store or picking up a soda at a gas station, Charlebois said. As individuals increasingly make healthier choices, he noted that companies’ profits from these impulse purchases could decline.

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“As desire wanes for some, it becomes more difficult for companies that rely on impulse purchases to increase sales,” he explained.

The Dalhousie University report found that 45.5 percent of people taking drugs like Ozempic reported eating less since they started taking them. Around 21 percent said they went to the restaurant less often because of the GLP-1 drug and 16 percent said they bought less groceries. In addition, 44 percent of respondents said they had lost weight.

Here is a list of what percentage of respondents said they were eating less of certain foods:

Categories with the highest percentage of people discontinuing consumption include sweet baked goods, snack foods (e.g. candy), and packaged cookies. The researchers suggest that GLP-1 drugs “significantly” reduce consumption of sugary and highly processed foods.

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A survey from September 2023 U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley predicted that the food, beverage and restaurant industries could see lower demand, particularly for unhealthier foods and high-fat, sweet and salty foods, as more people start taking weight control medications.

Like the Dalhousie University survey, it found that confectionery, baked goods and salty snacks appear to be most at risk from increased consumption of obesity medications.

Is the food industry paying attention?

Charlebois pointed out that the changing eating habits of Canadians taking weight control medications is a sign that the food industry, particularly those that sell unhealthy products, needs to rethink their manufacturing strategies.

In an interview with Bloomberg News in October 2023John Furner, CEO of Walmart US, told the outlet that the giant retail chain has seen a shift in demand for groceries from people taking Ozempic.

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“We definitely see a slight change compared to the overall population, we see a slight decrease in the overall basket,” Furner said. “Just fewer units, slightly fewer calories.”

Because of this dietary shift, he told Bloomberg that Walmart is studying changes in sales behavior by looking at anonymous shopper data and comparing the shopping habits of people who use drugs like Ozempic to those of people who don’t.

Charlebois said companies are starting to take notice, but believes it remains a “taboo subject.”

Click here to play the video: “1 in 8 people live with obesity: WHO”

One in eight people suffers from obesity: WHO

“I think that manufacturers really need to think differently about how they use sugar in their products in particular because (many) processed foods in Canada have added sugar,” he said. “And you have to think differently about the people you serve.”

Another shift could be for food service providers to consider offering size-based portion pricing or menus with health information aimed at people looking to reduce their calorie intake.

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“The reliance on impulse buying in the food industry is likely to decrease as the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists increases. There is clearly a demand for products with reduced sugar, fewer calories and less processing. The food industry could innovate by offering healthier alternatives,” the report said.

While the use of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic is still relatively new and growing, Charlebois suggested that we could be “at the beginning of a very interesting cycle.”

He also believes the food industry is “absolutely nervous.”

— with files from Kathryn Mannie and Janet Cordahi of Global News

A total of 8,662 respondents participated in the Dalhousie University survey conducted in December 2023. This number is both the weighted and unweighted total, indicating that each respondent was counted once in the analysis and that any adjustments to ensure representativeness did not change the total number of respondents. The survey’s margin of error is approximately 1.84 percent, assuming a confidence level of 95 percent. This means that the results of the survey are expected to be within ±0.63 percentage points of what would have been obtained if the entire population had been surveyed 95 times out of 100.

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