Fonterra plans to power up profits with protein

Fonterra. Photo credit: Getty

The boom in weight loss drugs like Ozempic has become a sales opportunity for dairy giant Fonterra.

And it's all based around a whey protein that’s found in milk.

"It all comes back to protein, which is extremely exciting, I guess, in terms of... what we can offer," said Richard Allen, president of Fonterra's Atlantic region - which includes the US.

Ozempic, from the GLP-1 drug class, is prescribed to treat type-2 diabetes. It's taken as a once-a-week injection.

However, in clinical trials Ozempic has been shown to help with weight loss.

Celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Sharon Osbourne have revealed they have tried Ozempic at some stage.

Doctors in the US have been prescribing Ozempic off-label, which means it's not being used for what it has been approved for by the US Food and Drug Administration.

"So, you take the Ozempic, you lose your appetite. But to lose... protein is actually really dangerous in terms of, you know, maintaining muscle mass," said Allen.

"So we've actually seen... the launch of products that are actually now looking to supplement alongside the GLP-1 drugs."

Fonterra is supplying whey protein to food manufacturers in the US where it said the protein drink category is popular.

"People are concerned about what they're eating," Allen said. "And, you know, protein is the key marker for them in terms of, 'Is this good for me?'"

According to a report by US Research firm Trillian Health, spending on Ozempic and another similar drug, Wegovy, totalled more than United States $10 billion in 2021.

Ozempic was approved by New Zealand's drug safety regulator Medsafe in 2023 as a treatment for type-2 diabetes.