Earlier this month, Nestlé announced plans to launch a new range of frozen ready meals called Vital Pursuit, designed for users of GLP-1 obesity medication.

Intended to act as a “companion” for consumers on the drugs, the 12 SKUs will be available in the US by the fourth quarter of this year. The meals on offer will be “portion-aligned to a weight loss medication user’s appetite”, and will include wholegrain bowls, protein pasta, sandwich melts and pizzas, all sold at an RRP of $4.99 or less.

Glucagon-like-peptide 1s (GLP-1s) are a group of drugs that suppress appetite which are being used by a growing number of people in US and Western European markets. Popular brands include Wegovy and Ozempic, developed by Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk. The FDA first approved Ozempic for use in Type 2 diabetes patients in 2017. Wegovy was approved by the federal body for weight loss management in adults with overweight or obesity in 2021.

The Swiss food giant has deemed the range essential as it looks to deliver on consumers’ “individualised needs and considerations,” and to be on top of trends, but how Vital Pursuit will impact performance post-launch, and whether other companies decide to follow Nestlé’s lead still remains to be seen.

Meeting consumer needs

Nestlé’s Vital Pursuit range looks to provide GLP-1 users with the “essential nutrients” they need while taking the medication facing a major dip in hunger. One of the main problems GLP-1 users are seeing upon taking the medication is a loss of lean muscle. Hamish Renton, managing director at UK food and drink consultancy HR Global explains: “When they come off, they’re not over-fat, they’re under-muscled… they’ve actually lost muscle mass, so they’re not in a great place, and one of the reasons… is they’re not eating enough protein”.

Some analysts see Nestlé’s range as a good start when it comes to addressing this issue. As Hannah Cleland, senior consumer analyst at GlobalData, Just Food’s parent company, says: “Although research and evidence around GLP-1 user’s eating habits is still ongoing, Nestlé’s Vital Pursuit range appears to have identified key changes already being reported. The high protein portion-controlled meals align with the loss of appetite particularly around snacking and desire for protein and fibre-rich foods.”

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

However, not everyone agrees. When it comes to the more processed elements in the range, such as the pizzas and sandwich melts, Ranton says that “you end up with a pale echo of the real thing and I don’t think you can necessarily win people [over] on that.”

He adds: “I worry they don’t take the person to a better place because they don’t educate, they don’t help develop the cooking skills. They’re not empowering products… I don’t even know if they’re solving that immediate need particularly.

“I didn’t see anything that seems to grab me and say, ‘this is what we’ve been missing’. A walk around an average supermarket on an average day making intelligent choices could get you, for less cash, to a better place if you were following one of these diets”.

Convenience – friend or foe?

As with any investment in prepared meals, the company is targeting the consumer demand for convenience, which for this particular market could be all the more important, with one of the most common side effects of GLP-1 drugs being nausea.

“If you don’t want to be cooking, you do want to have those frozen entrees that you can eat for yourself, but also feed your family with”, Nicholas Fereday, executive director of food and consumer trends at Dutch investment bank Rabobank, tells Just Food.

For Renton however, providing GLP-1 users with ready-to-heat products and no incentive to help them cook from scratch could drive some of that target market away. He explains: “it sort of infantilises the user, because it’s all done for you, and the only way you can keep doing it is you keep buying.

“I get that’s probably a business model… but it’s also ultimately unsustainable because we just get fed up… There’s all this food in the world I could be eating and you’re saying choose from these [selective] products? That’s not a life that people like… because they’re not robots.”

While convenient, Renton also believes Nestlé could initially struggle in generating repeat sales of Vital Pursuit, as most consumers aren’t looking to follow a smaller portion, low-calorie and extremely restrictive diet for life.

“It buys the patient the time to rewire their thinking and their eating patterns in order that when they taper… then you stop, that’s the idea,” he says. “You’ve got a new way of eating and clearly, you’re not going to flop on to all these products from Nestlé because they’ve been kind of part of the journey.”

Affordability vs. quality

Another hurdle the food processing heavyweight could face following the launch of Vital Pursuit is the price point of the range. As Cleland from GlobalData explains, an “emphasis on affordability…may not necessarily resonate with GLP-1 users.”

She adds: “Consumers are reporting buying less food in terms of volume, however it is important to remember that many GLP-1 users are likely to be affluent due to the typically high costs of these drugs. Brands may want to consider that if consumer spending is dropping due to decreased volumes, there is an opportunity to premiumise products with fresh, high-quality ingredients.”

According to a consumer survey conducted by GlobalData earlier this year, a third of shoppers are most likely to see value-for-money in prepared meals if they are deemed “high quality”. 

“The convenience of controlled portion ready meals may be attractive to GLP-1 users as they adjust to diminished appetite,” Cleland adds, “but brands should not scrimp on quality in these products.”

Fereday agrees, acknowledging that the premium potential of these products could tempt more businesses to enter the market.

“Food companies already have quite a toolkit for this”, he says. “They know that protein sells and they’ve been pushing protein for a while. They’ve been making the product smaller, for inflation reasons, but also to make them more snackable and convenient, and so… the idea of selling smaller units at a higher price, no one’s going to say no to that.

“The toolkit is there, it’s just a case of… do we need to, we need to pull them all together into a brand-new brand like Nestlé? Or can we just reposition what we already sell?”

He notes that some companies may be worried about a drop in volumes, but argues “to what extent are we being judged by how much food, how many calories we sell, as opposed to how expensive those calories might be? There are enough examples out there of food companies having kind of followed their consumer and being able to persuade them to spend more on smaller products or more high value products”.

Companies should ‘test the waters’

Vital Pursuit will launch solely in the US for now, says Nestlé, but it’s no pipe dream to think that the range could eventually be seen elsewhere. 

When it comes to where these products could thrive, the US and Western Europe seem the most likely, says Fereday. On the US, he says: “It’s the most lucrative market and it’s where [GLP-1s are] more accessible, so yeah, it will be a wait and see for sure. But the incidence of obesity is still pretty high in other countries around the world, – no country’s reversed the trend to obesity.”

As more companies look to develop food products for GLP-1 users, Cleland from GlobalData also acknowledges that these drugs are likely to “become more accessible across regions and incomes”, meaning “budget meal ranges may have greater appeal”.

It’s important not to act too prematurely in the space she stresses, adding that “brands should consider launching a couple of premium SKUs to ‘test the waters’”, instead of going in all guns blazing.

All in all, Renton is also confident the GLP-1 market isn’t a lost cause but warns it won’t be an easy initial ride. “It will work after a fashion”, he says, “but I think they’ll end up getting a lukewarm reception from the medical professional, if not a hostile one.”

Despite these obstacles, he adds that the Vital Pursuit range is an important first step from a leader in the food industry, and one which inevitably others will have to follow to meet a growing market that won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

“This is a tool that the medical profession is certainly going to be using in our lifetimes”, Renton says. “It has the potential to create new patterns of demand, new needs, new occasions and one thing about the food industry is it’s brilliantly adaptive. If people get it and understand it… then it’s something that really works.”