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Nestle to sell $5 pizza, sandwiches in the U.S. for Wegovy, Ozempic users

The injectable drug Ozempic is shown Saturday, July 1, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) The injectable drug Ozempic is shown Saturday, July 1, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
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NEW YORK -

Nestle will market a new, US$5 line of frozen pizzas and protein-enriched pastas in the United States which it says it designed specifically for people taking drugs such as Wegovy or Ozempic for weight loss.

The world's biggest food company, which sells DiGiorno pizza and Stouffer's meals to major grocers, said it developed the new products with more protein, iron and calcium for people taking the wildly popular appetite-suppressing drugs, called GLP-1 agonists.

Tom Moe, president of Nestle USA's meal division, said it will pitch the meals in a new brand, Vital Pursuit, as "food solutions" for people who want to complement their use of the drugs with "the right nutrition - high protein, good fiber, the right minerals," like potassium and vitamin C.

The products, set to hit supermarket shelves in October, are priced at $4.99 and under, a little more expensive than a DiGiorno four cheese personal pan pizza, which is sold at Target for $4.79.

Nestle, whose biggest brands include KitKat chocolate bars and Nescafe coffee, started working on companion products to the GLP-1 drugs last year.

"We moved real fast on this," Moe said.

Nestle CEO Mark Schneider said in October the company was “carefully” monitoring whether spreading use of the drugs might dent demand for its food products. He also said at the time that Nestle was working on “companion products” that might serve to limit the "loss of lean muscle mass” in people on the drugs.

Some investors have been worried that food companies will lose sales due to the hunger-suppressing drugs. But executives at companies like Nestle and Conagra see the medications presenting a new opportunity to pitch products such as beef jerky, popcorn and frozen meals. Mondelez executives have said their snack bars fit perfectly into the diet of a GLP-1 patient.

Roughly one in eight U.S. adults have taken the GLP-1 drugs, but Goldman Sachs estimates that 10 million to 70 million U.S. consumers could be taking them in the next four years.

Moe said Nestle spoke with people on the drugs to develop the meals and will be offering them samples soon. The Swiss-based company first introduced the brand to Walmart, and then other big retailers such as Kroger and Target, he said.

Race on to fill protein gap

People on GLP-1 medications are at risk of losing lean muscle mass as they shed pounds and often don’t feel like eating very much, said Ethan Lazarus, an obesity doctor in Colorado. Some who take the drugs develop aversions to protein and fat, said Lazarus, who is a speaker for GLP-1-drugmakers Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk.

“There’s definitely a need to make sure people get adequate protein,” said Lazarus, who once served on the advisory board for Nestle Health Sciences, which makes Optifast, a weight loss product.

“If food companies are going to try to pivot to make simple-flavored foods that are rich in protein and easy on the stomach, they might be popular ... I’m not sure how it’s different from (previous generations of packaged) diet food.”

Nestle already makes weight loss shakes and supplements that cater to people on the drugs, who can experience side effects like nausea and constipation.

Nutrition company Herbalife earlier this year began selling some of its most popular shake mixes and fiber supplements in bundles targeting people on the drugs.

Herbalife is looking at expanding the bundles to other markets, including South America and in particular Brazil, where GLP-1 drugs are growing in popularity, said Luigi Gratton, chairman of the company's nutrition advisory board.

Meal kit provider Daily Harvest is also offering a GLP-1 companion food collection, a box of meals that includes a broccoli and white bean soup and bean and cabbage bowl for $118.46.

Sales have been "relatively slow," said Daily Harvest CEO Ricky Silver. The company isn't aggressively pushing into selling its kits to people on the medications, he said.

"We definitely see it as an opportunity (but) not something we need to drastically pivot our focus toward," Silver said. "Our food is already foundationally good for people taking these drugs."

Nestle's Vital Pursuit's portions will range from approximately eight to 10 ounces (227 to 284 grams), Moe said.

In the 1980s, Nestle introduced diet brand Lean Cuisine, with meals focused on calorie control, while Vital Pursuit offers more fiber, protein and other "macronutrients," Moe said.

(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sonali Paul)

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