Could Ozempic Ignite Food’s Healthier Future?

Today, the weight loss drugs highlight a consumer movement against processed and ultra-processed foods. These foods have added ingredients such as sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and artificial colors that provide no nutritional value…except great taste.

Eaten as an indulgence, they are not terrible. But, unfortunately, many people indulge in these treats as a dietary staple.

The Search for Nutrition

Consumers today are looking for nutritious foods. Foods that not only treat existing diseases but prevent ones from appearing. Foods that help you manage your health and help you age gracefully, with ‘food as medicine’  the sought-after goal.

Innova Market Insights identified nutritional value and balanced nutrition, along with naturalness are important for consumers.

Ingredients containing protein, Omega-3, fiber, vitamins, prebiotics, probiotics, and even esoteric mushrooms such as ashwagandha and lion’s mane are high in demand. Mintel also identified a changing attitude toward extending life in good health.

How GLP-1 Drugs Affect Our Diet

Further fueling demand for a healthier, more nutritious diet are among those taking a new class of prescription drugs: GLP-1 agonists. These medications, like Ozempic and Wegovy, help lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss.

Morgan Stanley’s research survey of 300 patients taking a GLP-1 agonist found that these drugs reduced their daily appetite by 20-30 percent. They lost their appetite for candy, sugary drinks, and baked goods, creating room for adding healthy foods to their diet.

Especially as those on the GLP-1 drugs are not that hungry and might not meet the full 2,000-calorie minimal daily requirement, it is essential that what they do eat in a day provides their full complement of minerals and vitamins.

As the obesity epidemic continues to rise, so will the associated health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and fatty liver disease.

Today, about 69 percent, or 178 million adults, are either overweight or obese. Adult obesity is at 42.4 percent and is expected to climb to 50 percent in just six years.

GLP-1 drugs seem to hold the answer to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Morgan Stanley estimated that 7 percent of the U.S. population will be take GLP-1 medications by 2035. This equates to a potential $44 billion market by 2030.

Will Food Sales Decline? 

Grocers and consumer products companies worry about the future if more and more people are cutting 20-30% of their calories out of their diet.

In the fall of 2023, Walmart announced that it had seen a slight drop in food demand due to appetite-suppressing medications. It might be too soon to tell given that there is such a small percentage of the population on these weight loss programs, but as the numbers increase, how will CPG companies prepare?

However, CPG companies and grocers can benefit from this trend; consumers don’t have to be hurt by purchasing less food. Of course, if everyone ate more fruits and vegetables and fewer cookies, then obesity would not be an issue.

At D2D, we have written about changing one’s diet, but it is hard. What you eat is what you crave. Can anything be done to meet our nutritional needs while sating our  tastebuds?

How about a Healthy Oreo?

There are over 14 unique Oreos to choose from, with ‘Double Stuff’ being our favorite, mostly because it is reminiscent of our childhood.

But sadly, there is no benefit to eating these every day. Despite their great taste, they have no nutritional value, 12 grams of sugar, and 150 calories for just two cookies. They would be considered an indulgence and not a ‘food’.

What if the Oreo had the same basic ingredients but with added health benefits?

What if the creamy filling included Omega 3s for heart health, and fiber in the cookie for lowering cholesterol, aiding gut health, and reducing the risk of heart disease? Some vitamins like D3 could be added as an extra immune benefit. Instead of sugar, there could be stevia to keep the taste.

The mouthfeel and taste that any saturated fat provides could be replaced by an alternative fat from a plant oil called Epogee.

To be fair, in 2021, Mondelez did try to launch the Oreo Zero in China. Instead of sugar, they used sucrose and glucose, which gave a different taste from the original Oreo. They chose China because those consumers like less sugar in their snacks. Needless to say, it was not a success. Some of you readers might remember the backlash against the ‘New Coke’ in 1985. A change in the 99-year formula was a complete flop because Coca-Cola lovers liked the ‘Real Thing’.

How can CPG Companies Benefit? 

But are CPG companies ready to make such big changes? Already, many are starting to address their concerns about the potential for declining food consumption.

According to Food Dive, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have introduced small cans in response to consumers cutting back on sugar. Also, snack companies have created 100-calorie small snacks. Some have reduced salt and others have reformulated their products for added nutrition. But is it the right answer?

CPG companies have a range of opportunities to create healthier products. These changes can have meaningful impacts on consumer health.

How can the pharmaceutical industry influence the snack industry?

Healthier Product Formulations:

  • CPG companies can reformulate existing snacks to align with healthier profiles. For instance, reducing added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium content.
  • Whole grains, fiber, and protein can be added in to create more satisfying and nutritious snacks.
  • CPG companies can focus on nutrient-dense options that provide sustained energy.

Functional Ingredients:

  • Incorporating functional ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics, Omega-3, turmeric, and additional antioxidants can enhance the nutritional value of snacks.
  • GLP-1 users may want to seek snacks that support gut health and overall well-being.

Portion Control and Mindful Snacking:

  • Ozempic’s appetite-suppressing effects may encourage consumers to eat smaller portions.
  • CPG companies can develop snack packs with smaller, healthier portions, promoting mindful eating.
  • GLP-1’s impact on cravings could lead to decreased consumption of empty-calorie snacks (e.g., sugary treats).

Marketing Strategies:

  • Highlighting diabetes-friendly, weight-conscious, or blood sugar-friendly snacks can resonate with GLP-1 users.
  • Transparent labeling and clear health benefits can attract health-conscious consumers.

Collaboration with Healthcare Professionals:

  • CPG companies can collaborate with healthcare providers to educate consumers about healthier snack choices.
  • Ozempic users may appreciate guidance on suitable snacks to complement their treatment.

A Sea of Shadows: Uncovering Illegal Fishing Boats

Growing up in northern New England, we were spoiled with abundant fresh, local seafood. It wasn’t until I moved away that I realized how good I had it eating freshly caught fish. The United States imports 70-80% of its seafood, mostly from China, Thailand, Canada, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ecuador.   

My new reality was pulling out my phone at the seafood counter in my grocery store to find out where the catch originated. But with confusing adjectives, like “line caught,” “wild,” “farmed,” “no antibiotic-free,” “pole caught,” and “sustainable,”… I ended up just sticking with salmon farmed in Norway, where I knew the standard was high.

Turns out, I had every reason to be overly cautious. A study released in the January 2024 issue of Nature reports that 75% of global fishing vessels are untraceable. Research jointly conducted by Global Fishing Watch, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Duke University, UC Santa Barbara, and SkyTruth, gave concrete insights into this murky world of “dark vessels”. These stealthy ships roam the seas, plundering marine resources without a trace.

Understanding Dark Vessel Fishing

Dark vessel fishing ships operate well beyond the reach of regulation and oversight, hence the name ‘dark’.  Their impropriety threatens the delicate balance of marine ecosystems across the globe, not to mention posing a significant concern to global food security, economic stability, and the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on the ocean for sustenance.

The fishing industry has experienced a slowdown in recent years. Prolonged COVID shutdowns and overfishing in previous decades, as well as an increase in on-land and shore-based aquaculture operations, have contributed to decreased demand. Despite this, seafood remains a $250 billion market, with an estimated loss due to illegal fishing as high as $23.5 billion.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) activity continues to proliferate, prompted by an increasing demand for fish. As long as there are fish to capture, these stealthy ships will attempt to reap profits by exploiting fishing grounds beyond the reach of authorities.

IUU fishing vessels use a variety of tactics to evade detection, from turning off or manipulating their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders to operating in remote and poorly monitored ocean regions. The result is a cat-and-mouse game between authorities and illicit operators, with significant implications for marine biodiversity and the sustainability of global fisheries.

“A new industrial revolution has been emerging in our seas undetected—until now. On land, we have detailed maps of almost every road and building on the planet.

In contrast, growth in our ocean has been largely hidden from public view.”

 

          David Kroodsma, study author, Global Fishing Watch

Identifying Dark Vessels

The study, conducted by an international team of researchers, analyzed satellite data and harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to track the movements of dark vessel fishing boats to identify hotspots of illegal fishing activity and gain a deeper understanding of the factors driving these activities.

The study’s findings paint a troubling picture of the prevalence of dark vessel fishing across various regions of the world, even in marine protected areas like the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Their study also found more than 25 percent of transport and energy vessels are considered “dark.”

“Historically, vessel activity has been poorly documented, limiting our understanding of how the world’s largest public resource—the ocean—is being used.

By combining space technology with state-of-the-art machine learning, we mapped undisclosed industrial activity at sea on a scale never done before.”

 

          Fernando Paolo, study author, Global Fishing Watch

Collecting and analyzing the incomprehensible amount of data (2 thousand terabytes worth) needed to find this specific information was no small feat. Thankfully, these brilliant researchers mined disparate sets of public data to pinpoint exact locations of fishing vessels, both traceable and non-traceable.

They started with amassing satellite images of coastal waters worldwide from the European Space Agency from 2017 to 2021. They then created proprietary automated technology to identify which of those vessels were fishing boats. Next, the researchers compared images of the ships with public records disclosing their AIS location to determine which vessels did not broadcast their whereabouts.

Armed with this information, they create a “heat map” to show legal and illegal fishing activity across the globe:

Targeting Dark Vessel Locations

One of the key insights revealed by the research is the concentration of dark vessel fishing activity in some geographic regions.

Despite public AIS records indicating a somewhat distributed sprawl across most continents, these researchers prove that most illegal activity occurs in Asia.

The study identified several regions in Asia as the primary hotspots of IUU activity, notably Southeast and East Asia.

These regions are characterized by complex maritime disputes, porous borders, a vast array of fish species, and limited law enforcement presence to oversee farmed aquaculture practices, environmental protections, water toxicity, and many other factors.

“Publicly available data wrongly suggests that Asia and Europe have similar amounts of fishing within their borders, but our mapping reveals that Asia dominates — for every 10 fishing vessels we found on the water, seven were in Asia while only one was in Europe.

By revealing dark vessels, we have created the most comprehensive public picture of global industrial fishing available.”

 

Jennifer Raynor, study author, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This lethal combination creates fertile ground for dark vessel operators to carry out an unconscionable number of illicit activities, especially in specific hotbeds of IUU activity:

Korean Peninsula

In East Asia, the waters off the Korean Peninsula have become premier battlegrounds in the fight against IUU fishing, with crustaceans, shellfish, and finfish populating the waters.

Also of note, South Korea is the largest global consumer of seafood. Surprisingly, 65% of their seafood is imported, despite their seemingly abundant waters.

Bay of Bengal

Similarly, the Bay of Bengal off the coast of South Asia’s Bangladesh and Myanmar, has emerged as a hotspot of illegal fishing activity, where 100% of all fishing activity is not tracked.

And to make matters worse, some fishers off of these shores use poison to catch the area’s abundance of finfish and shrimp. This not only damages the health of those who consume the poisoned products, but it also endangers the largest mangrove forest ecosystem in the world.

Strengthening Global Cooperation & Enforcement Efforts

This study can serve as a loud and clear warning sign for all of us. Addressing the scourge of dark vessel fishing requires international cooperation, significant investment in monitoring and onsite enforcement, and promoting sustainable fishing practices are all essential components of a comprehensive strategy to combat IUU fishing.

Though daunting, this undertaking would help recover an estimated global economic loss due to illegal fishing as high as $23.5 billion annually. Not to mention the restoration of vulnerable coastal communities and local economies suffering from devastating poverty and food insecurity.

Furthermore, this methodology can be easily adapted to tackle other global issues, like climate change. Mapping all vessels can improve estimates of oceanic carbon emissions and track marine degradation.

“Previously, this type of satellite monitoring was only available to those who could pay for it. Now it is freely available to all nations.

This study marks the beginning of a new era in ocean management and transparency.”

 

          David Kroodsma, study author, Global Fishing Watch

Much can be learned from this team of researchers in terms of determination to source discreet data sets around the globe, innovative implementation of artificial intelligence, and cross-organization cooperation. If we follow suit, we can find new ways to shine a light on these activities and hold those responsible for their crimes.

What We Can Do Today

We can empower ourselves right away by realizing the trickle-down effect of our everyday purchase decisions. If we don’t buy fish products sourced from countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and other areas of the world with rampant dark vessels, fewer IUU ships will bother fishing in less lucrative territories.

As for discrete locations, if you prefer wild-caught, stick with fish caught in the northern shores of Europe. For farmed, consider fish from reputable countries like Norway, Scotland, Canada, and Chile.

Organizations focused on sustainable seafood can provide practical, research-based recommendations, too. Seafood Watch creates helpful guides to better navigate our grocery aisles and stick to more sustainable species and acceptable countries of origin (here’s the Watch’s guide for shrimp). You can also keep an eye out for the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue “MSC” label to stick with sustainable fish species.

Still can’t find the country of origin for the fish you want? Ask someone, whether it’s the associate behind the seafood counter, customer service at the grocery store, or the waiter who must ask the chef. If many of us ask this question wherever we purchase seafood, more industry players will be compelled to start readily providing these details.

Can We Eat to Improve the Climate?

Growing, harvesting, processing, and transporting our food takes about 17% of all the fossil fuel used in the United States. With the ambitious goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, consumers are searching for foods that require fewer fossil fuels. Is this realistic?

Quantifying Energy Used for Food

We recently read How the World Really Works, the most recent book by Vaclav Smil, a distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. Smil has published 47 books and more than 500 papers on the research in energy environmental and population change, food production, history of technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. Bill Gates considers him one of his favorite authors.

In his latest book, Professor Smil explored the improvements the world has made since the early 1800s. He explains “In two centuries the human labor to produce a kilogram of American wheat was reduced from 10 minutes to less than two seconds.” He also talks about the importance of fossil fuels and the world could not provide enough food to feed all of us without them.

Smil also delves into food production and its associated energy use. In fact, he had the patience to calculate how much energy it takes to make a loaf of sourdough bread, raise a chicken, grow a tomato, and eat seafood. He averaged out an itemized estimate using production numbers around the globe.

This sounds like a painstakingly long and detailed effort, with considerations for crop and livestock cultivation; facilities management; processing, production and packaging; and all distribution required along the way. But the results were interesting and surprising!

Bread’s Energy Journey 

Sourdough bread is a staple around the world.

The energy it takes to plant, grow, and harvest wheat is crucial in its production. After the wheat is harvested, it is trucked or goes by rail to the mill to be made into flour.

The initial stages of sourdough preparation require the activation and maintenance of the starter culture, which demands consistent temperature control.

Additionally, mixing, kneading, baking and the use of ovens and other kitchen appliances all contribute to energy consumption.

The energy required throughout this journey for a 2.2 pound loaf of sourdough bread is just about 8 ounces of diesel fuel.

Crude for Chickens

Raising chickens involves a fascinating blend of traditional agricultural practices and modern energy considerations.

To maximize production, it is critical to maintain a suitable environment for the birds. They must be fed the right mixture of grains, minerals, and vitamins.

The utilization of electricity for consistent temperature control, ventilation, and lighting, especially in large-scale operations, underscores the intrinsic relationship between energy usage and the well-being of the birds.

Once the chicken is fully grown the birds are transported to the processing facility which turns them into breasts, thighs, and other cuts for the grocery store.

The entire energy for 2.2 pounds of processed chicken is about 11 ounces of diesel.

Holy Tomato!

Tomatoes can require many factors and sources of energy, depending on whether they are grown indoors or out.

Photosynthesis uses the sun’s energy to grow tomatoes outdoors for over eight months. Yet for the 35% of global tomatoes grown indoors, the energy inputs are significantly more because of the substantial energy required to provide heat, light, and nutrients, not to mention the energy needed to make the greenhouse itself.

But even tomatoes grown outdoors require crude oil to make the plastic clips, wedges, sheets, and gutter arrangements for successfully growing a tomato crop.

The energy utilized in production encompasses diverse inputs, from solar energy and traditional machinery to electricity and embodied energy, making its energy calculation highly complex.

The answer for this beloved fruit is not simple, but Smil calculated that, growing 2.2 pounds of tomatoes uses about 21.9 fluid ounces of diesel fuel, on average.

Fuel for Farmed Salmon 

On average, the energy consumption for seafood production is relatively high.

It takes approximately 23.6 ounces of diesel per 2.2 pound serving, just slightly more than the energy needed for tomatoes.

For example, salmon, a popular seafood choice, is predominantly farmed, which involves significant energy expenditure for fish feed production, transportation to farms, and ultimately to consumers.

Unless sourced locally from specific regions like Chile, Norway, Scotland, or Western Canada, considerable energy is expended in the entire process from farm to table.

Of course, one can imagine the amount of fuel used to catch, freeze, and transport wild-caught fish. Professor Smil suggests that opting for sardines, which are rich in omega-3s and have lower environmental impacts, can be a more sustainable choice.

Is Energy Estimation Possible?

We were shocked when we found out that raising 2.2 pounds of chicken required just a third of the energy needed to cultivate the same weight of tomatoes. This proves that our food system is much more complicated than it appears.

We wrote about climate conscious eating and pointed out that it is not just about the energy used, we have to also consider water.  To grow just one ounce of nuts takes anywhere from 3.2 gallons to a whopping 28.7 gallons for almonds.

Farming takes multiple kinds of energy. Human energy – plain old hard work and effort.  Solar energy – sunlight for photosynthesis.  Wind – for pollination.  And just as important, fossil fuel energy, including diesel and gasoline for farm machinery, plant equipment, and transportation.

Used appropriately, energy increases productivity and distribution across our food system, therefore increasing profitability for farmers. Without that energy, the whole system collapses.

End of story, turn out the lights, dinner is over.

“Our food is partly made not just of oil, but also of coal that was used to produce the coke required for smelting the iron needed for field, transportation, and food processing machinery; of natural gas that serves as both feedstock and fuel for the synthesis of nitrogenous fertilizers; and of the electricity generated by the combustion of fossil fuels that is indispensable for crop processing, taking care of animals, and food and feed storage and preparation.”

– Prof. Vaclav Smil

The complexities of our food system are vast. As we push our cart through the grocery aisle, how do we really know whether the food we eat is farmed sustainably and uses energy and water responsibly? Are you curious?

  1. Would you pay more to know exactly how much energy and water was used to make the food you are eating?
  2. Would you like to see it on a label?
  3. Would it affect your food choice?

Digging In: Regenerative Ranching


Little Belt Cattle Company is a family-owned and operated working cattle ranch and premium beef company founded by two former special operations veterans, Greg Putnam and Tim Sheehy. Together, they have built a local sustainable supply chain of the highest quality grass-fed and grain-finished premium beef that is raised, finished, and processed in Montana.

Greg talks to us about the challenges and excitement of taking care of approximately 8,000 head of cattle. He speaks to the hard work and dedication of multi-generation ranches, as well as similarities between the military and cattle ranching.