Starting the Charcoal

Will Advanced Obesity Medicines Change the Food Environment?

The top dishes for this Memorial Day in the U.S. are hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue ribs, grilled chicken, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and potato salad. Homemade, none of it (except maybe the hot dogs) belongs to the current boogeyman category of ultra-processed food. Nor does it qualify as the bedrock of a healthy diet. Regardless, it dominates our food environment today. We enjoy it.

Memorial Day comes around every year, but larger forces of consumer dynamics influence the constant flux in our food environment on a larger scale. Could it be that movement toward effective control of obesity will ultimately reshape food market dynamics and thus, our food environment?

Nestlé Takes Aim

Nestlé indeed seems to think the rise of advanced obesity medicines like semaglutide (aka Ozempic or Wegovy) might have such an effect. So they are launching a new brand of frozen food – Vital Pursuit – targeted at people who are taking these medicines to cope with obesity. Steve Presley, the Nestlé North America CEO, explains:

“At Nestlé we want to be there for every moment in our consumers’ lives – today and in the future. As the use of medications to support weight loss continues to rise, we see an opportunity to serve those consumers. Vital Pursuit provides accessible, great-tasting food options that support the needs of consumers in this emerging category. We’re leveraging our deep understanding of consumers and nutritional science to stay ahead of the trends that are shaping consumer behaviors, and innovating across our portfolio to deliver products people will love.”

A New Model for the Food Supply

Much of the angst about ultra-processed food presumes that somehow the substance of it is making us all fat. Maybe it has too much fat, salt, and sugar. Or it’s hyper-palatable. But it’s worth considering that the real problem is one of market dynamics and the model for growth in the business of making food.

Right now, global food companies achieve growth by selling us ever more units of inexpensive food. Profits grow and our bodies become over-nourished. Appetites of those over-nourished bodies demand more of the food that got them to that state.

But if people stop consuming ever more food – perhaps because of effective obesity treatment – that model will have to change. Instead of selling ever more tons of food, food companies will have to grow by selling foods that deliver more value per unit.

Could it be that obesity is the cause of changes in our food environment as much as it is an effect? If so, it might be that coming to cope better with obesity could take us from a vicious cycle in the food industry to a more virtuous cycle where less obesity prompts a better food supply.

Food for thought.

Click here, here, and here for more on Nestlé plans to target people taking obesity medicines. For perspective on the bidirectional relationship between obesity and overeating, click here.

Starting the Charcoal, photograph © Tomas Castelazo,, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


May 27, 2024

2 Responses to “Will Advanced Obesity Medicines Change the Food Environment?”

  1. May 27, 2024 at 9:37 am, Allen Browne said:


    I guess so.

    Have a good Memorial Day!


  2. May 27, 2024 at 7:20 pm, David Brown said:

    The trick is to determine what constitutes better food. Right now, all we have are clues as to what precipitated the global obesity diabetes epidemic. Here’s one: “India is one of the leading producers of poultry meat in the world. The increase in the average income and the urban population has led to a tremendous increase in the poultry demand and a steady increase in consumption over the years. In 2023, the consumption of poultry meat in India was found to be over four million metric tons.”
    Here’s another clue: