A survey carried out by US investment bank Stifel has revealed how widespread the use of GLP-1 weight-loss drugs is.

And Stifel concluded there is a risk to the packaged food sector from the increased usage of the drugs, the most prominent being Ozempic and Wegovy made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

Recent research from Trilliant Health revealed that some nine million US citizens were taking a GLP-1 anti-obesity drug as of the end of 2022, and Stifel’s survey suggests that figure could now be much higher.

The increasing use of such drugs has caused chatter among packaged food companies as they suppress appetite and could potentially lead to a shift in eating behaviour.

A number of food companies with portfolios including products deemed to be less healthy – including PepsiCo and Mondelez International – have thus far said they are untroubled by the potential impact on sales but the Stifel consumer survey suggests their use is gaining momentum.

The bank’s research revealed that 15% of respondents over a three-survey average used a GLP-1 drug, with an additional 21% reporting they would be interested in using one if they were universally FDA approved for weight loss, had proven results, and became widely available.

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“[Some] 9% of the 15% of current GLP-1 users have diabetes, meaning 6% are likely using the drug for weight loss, and we believe are more recent adopters,” it said.

In terms of results from drugs’ use, it said: “We estimate a 4% reduction in calories consumed by US consumers assuming 16% of the population are new GLP-1 users over a 24-month period, with users consuming 25% fewer calories.”

While admitting that it views increasing GLP-1 usage as “more of a future watch-point than as having a measurable impact on recent volume trends”, Stifel predicted potential shifts in consumer buying behaviour as a result of their use.

It said: “By sector/category, GLP-1 usage is most beneficial for energy drinks, convenient nutrition, and apparel and active lifestyle nutrition.”

Stifel added: “We think the survey supports future growth potential for the convenient nutrition category. Convenient nutrition categories offer consumers convenient and nutrient-dense options, which we believe become increasingly relevant for GLP-1 users that are reducing calories.

“The potential 4% reduction in calories indicated in the survey is a risk to packaged food.”