Food startups have an opportunity to jump on the snacking needs of this new demographic with products focused on protein, portion size and hydration.

By Jennifer Lawinski

The Ozempic effect is real: Study zeroes in on GLP-1 users’ food needs

Hitra via Getty Images

A recent study by food product innovation specialist Mattson finds that those taking anti-obesity medications such as Ozempic, Wegovy and Zepbound, are changing their eating habits. They are looking for foods that are packed with protein, come in smaller portions and help to keep them hydrated.

In addition to smaller portions, those taking anti-obesity medications also look for food products that help quell nausea and other gastrointestinal side effects experienced by some. 

“What we have seen throughout all of this work is that these drugs have really fundamentally changed the way people interact with food,” said Mattson EVP insights and innovation Katie Hagan, in a May 3 webinar discussing the study’s findings. 

GLP-1 receptor agonists and other anti-obesity medications work by slowing the transit of food through the body, making those who take them eat less and feel fuller longer. The portion size and caloric content of some legacy diet food products may have larger portions than these individuals can eat, Mattson Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer Barb Stuckey said in an interview. 

“If you tend to overeat even just a small amount we heard from our consumers is that there’s a real discomfort that comes along with that,” she added.

Manufacturers looking to create products that cater to this growing market segment – which according to recent research from Goldman Sachs could be as much as 15 million people, or 13% of the U.S. population, by 2030 – should focus on creating products that meet their new needs for protein and hydration, and gentle foods that can help with the gastrointestinal side effects, Stuckey said. 

“I think there’s opportunities for startups where there’s a complete void in the marketplace… and we think that the frozen food industry has a tremendous opportunity to provide foods and beverages supplements that can help,” she said. 

“The ones that really understand their consumer are the ones that are going to win, as always. They’re going to have a compelling offering at a fair price that tastes great. That’s the other thing. Just because you’re not hungry doesn’t mean you want to eat something that tastes weird,” Stuckey said. “Especially if you’re eating less food. I want it to be good.”


Mattson used its proprietary AI to generate food concepts that it had panel participants evaluate and several were appealing including: 

  • Pre-portioned grilled chicken strips
  • 2-ounce portions of Greek yogurt in pouches
  • Electrolyte-enhanced fruit popsicles
  • Mini meal cups

The study, which included about 100 participants, also found that those taking these medications reported drinking more tap or still water (59%) and decreasing their consumption of soda and alcohol (66%). On the other hand, 38% reported that they were drinking more protein beverages. 

In general, 92% of participants said they were eating less, with 61% reporting eating fewer meals and 51% reporting eating fewer snacks. Participants reported consuming more high-protein foods, eggs, fruits, vegetables, salads, grains and legumes, and consuming fewer sweets, sugary drinks, fatty meats, processed salty foods, alcohol, spices and dairy. 

Participants also reported exercising more frequently, and 61% said they spend “much less” or a “little less” time thinking about food. 

Side effects, including gastrointestinal issues, caused some participants to enjoy food less and avoid restaurants. 

“What it requires of the food and beverage industry is an understanding of how these drugs work,” Stuckey said. “It’s a medication that really requires a different way of thinking.” 


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