Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Nov 30, 2023

Anti-Obesity Meds Could Bite Into Food Sales


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Pamela Kaufman, Morgan Stanley's Tobacco and Packaged Food Analyst. Today I'll be talking about how obesity medicines are impacting food spending. It's Thursday, November 30th at 10 a.m. in New York.

With Thanksgiving behind us, we've now entered the holiday season when many of us are focused on shopping, travel and, of course, food.

The last 12 to 18 months have seen overwhelming growth in popularity for a glucagon-like peptide 1 or GLP-1 anti-obesity medications. These medications were first approved for the treatment of type two diabetes more than 15 years ago and for the treatment of obesity more than 8 years ago. But the inflection point came only recently when the formulation and delivery of GLP-1 drugs improved from once daily injections to once weekly injections, and even an oral formulation. There were also some key FDA approvals that opened the doors for widespread use.

How effective are these new and improved GLP-1 drugs? Essentially, they target areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food consumption so that patients feel full longer, have a reduced appetite and consume less food. Studies show that patients taking the injectable GLP-1 medicines can lose approximately 10 to 20% of their body weight.

One of the key debates in the market right now is how the growing use of GLP-1 drugs will affect various industries within the larger food ecosystem. The fact that patients on anti-obesity drugs experience a significant reduction in appetite impacts their food habits and consumption.

The "Food Meets Pharma" debate is one we've been tracking closely, and our most recent work indicates that shoppers with obesity spend about 1% more on groceries compared to shoppers without obesity. But we see a larger difference across less healthy categories. Over the last year, obese shoppers spent more on candy, frozen meals and beverages, but less on produce, fish and beans and grains. In addition, shoppers with obesity spend more at large fast food chains.

Our own survey data and various medical studies point to a drastic 60 to 70% reduction in consumption of less healthy categories in patients taking GLP-1 drugs, driven by the significant changes observed in their food consumption and preferences.

As drug use grows, we can see an increasing impact across various food and beverage related industries in the U.S. For example, among our beverages coverage, U.S. shoppers with obesity spend more on carbonated soft drinks and salty snacks. Shoppers with obesity also spend more on fast food and on a relative basis, less at fast casual restaurants and casual diners. But obesity medicines are starting to change these habits. Furthermore, 62% of GLP-1 patients report consuming less alcohol since starting on the medications, with 56% of those consuming less reporting at least a 75% reduction in alcohol consumption.

So what's our outlook for drug adoption? Morgan Stanley research estimates that the global obesity prescription market will reach $77 billion in the next decade, with $51 billion in the U.S. By 2035, my colleagues expect 7% of the U.S. population will be on anti-obesity medication. Given these projections, the "Food Meets Pharma" debate will remain relevant and something investors should watch closely.

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The growing popularity of medicines that curb appetite is having an impact on consumption of less-healthy foods. Here’s what that could mean for packaged snacks, soda, alcohol and fast food.