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Walmart seems to have changed its view of weight-loss drugs

By Ciara Linnane

CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC it's too early to say what effect Ozempic and Wegovy will have on consumer behavior

The head of Walmart Inc. said Wednesday it's too early to say exactly what effect the new class of weight-loss drugs that have become highly popular in the U.S. will have on consumer behavior.

"What we can see big picture is that there's some shifting in categories as people think about losing weight," Chief Executive Doug McMillon told CNBC in an interview.

"They buy more fresh foods, for example. So there's some movement around, but I can't call what's gonna happen in the long term. That's a developing story," he said.

In October, the company's (WMT) CEO for the U.S. John Furner told Bloomberg in an interview that the company can track which of its customers are taking the drugs and see they are causing a "slight pullback in overall basket" and "less units, slightly less calories."

His comments sparked a selloff of the stocks of beverage and snack giants Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), as MarketWatch reported at the time.

The new drugs, which include Ozempic and Wegovy, are used for diabetes and weight loss and work by mimicking the effect of GLP-1, a gut hormone that can help control blood-sugar levels and reduce appetite.

The former two are made by Denmark's Novo Nordisk (DK:NOVO.B) (NVO) while Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) is behind Zepbound, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month as an obesity treatment. Many other drug companies are working to develop oral versions - for now they are only available as injectables.

McMillon said it's too early to estimate their impact on packaged foods.

Analysts, notably the Morgan Stanley equity research team, are busy making their calculations and have said that companies that focus on highly calorific processed foods may see their market share erode as more people are prescribed them.

See now: As Ozempic and Wegovy frenzy continues, Morgan Stanley lifts forecasts for weight-loss drugs to $77 billion

In October, Bernstein analysts did a dive into online data to better understand changes in eating habits, asking patients which foods they were eating and which they were avoiding.

The analysts concluded that the food companies with the most exposure are ones with portfolios of carb-focused snacks, such as General Mills Inc. (GIS) and Kellanova, the renamed Kellogg (K).

For more, read: The dark side of the weight-loss-drug craze: eating disorders, medication shortages, dangerous knockoffs

-Ciara Linnane

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.


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12-07-23 1147ET

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