Obesity-fighting Americans make Denmark great again

Thanks to America, the land where only 12% of the population are metabolically healthy, Denmark has become the fastest-growing economy in Europe. And what is it that Americans are doing to help Europe? Taking Ozempic, the weight-loss drug made by Denmark-based Novo Nordisk. The drug is also helping sales for some food companies in the US.

Strictly speaking, Ozempic is not a weight-loss drug. It was designed to help people with Type-2 diabetes regulate their blood sugar, but it's become widely used in the US for weight-loss since it was discovered that this was a beneficial side-effect of the drug.

In 2023 the Danish economy grew faster than any other country in Europe, at 2.6%, double the growth of the 2nd fastest-growing European country, Croatia, and far ahead of Germany, once the powerhouse of Europe, but now battling economic recession.  

Danish GDP will grow by 2.7% this year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said, adding that: “The pharmaceutical industry has been absolutely crucial for growth in real terms GDP in the past two years, as in other parts of the Danish economy there has been stagnation or actual decline."

Danish exports grew by a remarkable 13.4% in 2023, primarily driven by Novo Nordisk's drugs Ozempic and Wegovy (which also combats weight gain) as well as a revival in natural gas extraction and exports.

In America, more than anywhere else, Ozempic has become a cultural phenomenon with Elon Musk, Sharon Osbourne and members of the Kardashian family all said to have used the drug. Part of the success can be explained by the fact that America is one of only two countries where drugs can be advertised to the public, prompting people to demand them of their doctor. In the rest of the world the doctor is still the gatekeeper.

Growing demand has come despite a monthly cost of between $1,000 and $1,500 and for many people side-effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence, constipation, fatigue and others. For many Americans, these are (so far) minor inconveniences on the road to health.

What does it mean for the food industry? Opportunity, according to Mark Schneider of Nestlé Europe. Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference, he said: "I think it has brought the whole topic of dieting and weight loss back to the top of the agenda." He identified three opportunity areas:

- Protein for muscle mass preservation (Ozempic burns muscle as well as fat)

- Micronutrient deficiencies

- Gut health

Speaking at the same conference, the CEO of ConAgra, maker of the $1 billion annual sales Healthy Choice ready meal brand, said the company was seeing stronger sales of frozen meals and meat snacks to Ozempic users.

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