Ozempic causing ‘slight pullback’ by shoppers, Walmart says

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Walmart Inc. says it’s already seeing an impact on shopping demand from people taking the diabetes drug Ozempic, Wegovy and other appetite-suppressing medications.

“We definitely do see a slight change compared to the total population, we do see a slight pullback in overall basket,” John Furner, the CEO of Walmart’s sprawling U.S. operation, said in an interview Wednesday. “Just less units, slightly less calories.”

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is studying changes in sales patterns using anonymized data on shopper populations. It can look at the purchasing changes among people taking the drug and can also compare those habits to similar people who aren’t taking the shots. Furner said it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions about the appetite-suppressing drugs made by Novo Nordisk A/S, and similar medicines.

An increasing number of CEOs and investors are talking about how popular weight-loss drugs might change the economy and business. According to the Wall Street Journal, an estimated 7% of the U.S. population will be taking such drugs by 2035.

Earlier this week, the CEO of the maker of Pringles and Cheez-Its said the company is studying their potential impact on dietary behaviors.

“Like everything that potentially impacts our business, we’ll look at it, study it and, if necessary, mitigate,” Steve Cahillane, the CEO of Kellanova, said in an interview.

Walmart sells GLP-1 drugs, a category that includes Ozempic, through its pharmacies. In August, it said they were giving the retailer a revenue boost. U.S. sales for those medicines increased 300% between 2020 and 2022, according to a recent report from Trilliant Health.

“We still expect food, consumables, and health and wellness primarily due to the popularity of some GLP-1 drugs to grow as a percent of total in the back half,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on a call with analysts in August.

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6 thoughts on “Ozempic causing ‘slight pullback’ by shoppers, Walmart says

  1. Wait – is Walmart sharing medical data with their marketing department, and with these food manufacturers? At some point in this process, they’re linking the profiles of medical patients with retail data – how is that possibly legal?

    Is that not a huge HIPAA violation?

    1. “Anonymized data”. That’s the key phrase in the story.

      They’re allowed to know what drugs they’re selling in their pharmacy and to whom they sell those drugs. HIPAA doesn’t prohibit them from linking all of a customer’s purchases, nor from using the data if it is anonymized (i.e. stripped of personal identification).

      (Ask your local friends at Lilly how drug trials work.)

    2. WTF?!? Walmart must be connecting medical prescription purchases to food purchases in their stores. Maybe the PHI data is stripped before the data is shipped to Marketing, but they still must be using the two data sets together.

    3. Dan, you never wondered how CVS gives you specific coupons on your mile-long register receipt?

      Welcome to the Age of Big Data.

  2. So it sounds like I need to keep doing my part to support American businesses and keep eating Pringles and Cheez-Its. Maybe even increase my consumption! Who knew my snacking habit would become so patriotic? I can even get a thin orange line flag for my car to show my support of eating all of the delicious orange snacks.

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