For decades, snack brands like Lay’s chips have emphasized the craveability of their products, declaring “Betcha can’t eat just one” to customers across countless marketing campaigns. But a growing number of Americans are challenging the validity of this classic slogan thanks to appetite-controlling drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro. These pharmaceutical brands are quickly becoming big hits with consumers who want to reduce their compulsive eating habits, especially frequent snacking. According to one user, her grocery bills dropped by 20 percent as Mounjaro made her far less likely to overeat when stressed.
While this is positive news for people who want more control over their appetites, it could spell disaster for processed food companies that depend on overindulgent snackers. “It’s an existential threat to the food industry and certainly an existential threat to the processed food industry,” said Marion Nestle, emeritus professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. “You’ve got all these things coming together in a way they’ve never come together before.” Food marketers are accustomed to anticipating trends and adjusting their messaging accordingly, such as in the 1990s when concerns about fat led to the launch of brands like Snackwells and Baked Lays. But the rise of Ozempic and Mounjaro could be a uniquely dangerous event for food companies if millions of consumers suddenly become averse to snacking.
The question is how popular these medications will become with consumers. Morgan Stanley estimates that 24 million people will be taking appetite-suppressants by 2035, amounting to 7 percent of the U.S. population. In the immediate term, however, many potential patients are deterred both by the high cost of treatment and unpleasant side effects like nausea and diarrhea. Still, companies like Mondelez are already responding to possible changes in consumer habits by expanding their line of “portion control” snack sizes. Brands like Oreo and Hu chocolate are also offering products made for special diets in order to entice gluten-free and paleo eaters. “We have lots of products that will fit [low-calorie diets] already, but we’ll design new ones if we don’t,” said Conagra vice president Bob Nolan.
- Do you think the increasing popularity of medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro could decrease sales for snack food companies? Why or why not?
- How are snack food companies responding to the potential market effects of appetite-suppressing drugs?
Sources: Jesse Newman, “America’s Food Giants Confront the Ozempic Era,” The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2023; Kim Severson, “In the Ozempic Age, Has ‘Craveable’ Lost Its Selling Power?” The New York Times, January 16, 2024.