Some 51% of the global population – or more than 4bn people – will be overweight or living with obesity within 12 years if current trends prevail. This is according to the World Obesity Atlas 2023, published by the World Obesity Federation, which also predicts that the global economic impact of excess weight and obesity will reach US$4.32tn annually by 2035 if prevention and treatment measures do not improve. At almost 3% of global GDP, this is comparable with the impact of Covid-19 in 2020. Other key findings include:

  • Childhood obesity could more than double by 2035 (from 2020 levels). Rates are predicted to double among boys to 208mn (100% increase) and more than double among girls to 175mn (125%) and are rising more rapidly among children than adults
  • Lower income countries are facing rapid increases in obesity prevalence. Of the 10 countries with the greatest expected increases in obesity globally (for adults & children), nine of those are from low or lower-middle income countries. All are from Asia or Africa

The World Obesity Federation calls for comprehensive national action plans to help countries act on new World Health Organization Recommendations for the Prevention & Management of Obesity. The Atlas report will be presented at a high-level policy event on 6th March 2023 to UN policymakers, member states and civil society.

Source: Semafor

Nicholas Hall Writes: This week’s column is all about opportunities. And as I put my mind more and more to the New Paradigms 2023 report, scheduled for publication in July, I envisage a feature called “10 Steps to Heaven”, which will show the greatest sources of growth either by category or marketing strategy. A good example of this will be trying to understand how weight loss products can meet the needs of consumers.

Last week we wrote about the mounting problem of obesity, and my colleague Victoria Blake observed that there are 2bn overweight people on the face of this planet. The latest report warns that in 12 years that number could double, with 51% of the world’s population in the overweight or obese categories, with a huge incidence among children. With an absence of really effective pharmaceutical products – and as mediaeval torture instruments like the gastric band provide the only truly effective outcomes – this is surely a need that requires the combined creativity of our industry. Almost all weight loss products have failed, but there are some chinks of light. Weight Watchers seems to have achieved success over many years by putting more emphasis on the lifestyle aspects of losing weight, rather than a miracle ingredient.

Put more crudely, consumers respond better to being “nagged” than tantalised by a wonder product. Of course, there has to be a product or else there is no reason for any manufacturer to invest in nagging. And nagging was behind the past success of the Tony Ferguson Weight Loss System in Australia, which worked for consumers, delivered an amazing source of new profitability to those pharmacists who fully participated in the nagging process, and built a very successful business for Tony Ferguson himself, who was not a marketing guru but a pharmacist with two retail outlets.

The next issue of our sister publication CHC.NewDirections on 7th March leads with a focus on Nestlé Health Science’s collaborative efforts in identifying and testing weight loss solutions. NHSc and biotech start-up EraCal Therapeutics have entered into a research collaboration aiming to identify novel nutraceuticals relevant to control food intake, while Biomedical company Epitomee and NHSc have finalised patient enrolment for a study involving Epitomee’s weight loss capsule.

Alli granted final marketing approval in Japan

Following the recommendation of orlistat for direct-to-OTC approval in Japan, anti-obesity drug Alli has been granted final marketing approval by the Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare. Taisho, which gained the rights to develop and market orlistat in Japan from GSK in 2009, is yet to announce the product’s release date.

Victoria Blake, head of Competitive Intelligence & Market Analysis (CIMA), writes: The World Health Organisation reports that worldwide obesity has almost tripled since 1975 – in 2016, almost 2bn adults were overweight. However, a report in 2020 found that across 7 major markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan and USA), Japan had the lowest total prevalence of obesity at 4%. While orlistat is a welcome innovation to the self-care market as a scientifically-proven solution to weight loss, it is notable that the target audience appears to be significantly smaller than in some Western markets (prevalence was reported at 40% for the USA). Nevertheless, serious government concerns regarding the economic healthcare impact of obesity in Japan’s older population led to the Metabo Law in 2008, which attempts to address obesity concerns through regular monitoring of waist size in those aged 40-74 years. Alli was switched in the USA in 2007 and in the EU in 2009 (the first drug to go through the EU Centralised procedure). Lack of repeat purchases was a key factor behind limited growth for the brand, consumers prone to expecting “miracle cures” and rapid results when it comes to weight loss vs faith in longer-term, proven regimen. We watch with interest to see how Taisho’s strategy unfolds for orlistat in this new market.

Nicholas Hall Writes: I wanted to lead with this story this week, not because Alli is a wonder brand – sadly, it failed in the consumer market – but because of the huge unmet demand for effective weight loss products, which is rightly pointed out by my colleague Victoria Blake. In fact, there is no other sector in consumer health where demand is so high and delivery so poor. In all other sectors we have great products and the job is communicating their benefits to consumers. This is the exact reverse, where demand is almost unlimited among an increasingly overweight population, but where we just don’t have safe and effective products in consumer health or indeed in the prescription market. So no one who reads this column will be surprised that weight loss and obesity is to be a major topic covered in my signature report, New Paradigms 2023 – the Future Resumed

One of the problems that Alli faced was honesty. The brand was marketed in terms of delivering major benefits, but those benefits could only be achieved if consumers modified their lifestyle as well. This they were largely unwilling to do, and there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that consumers taking a weight loss product feel empowered to consume more of their favourite foods and drinks, even though contrary to the necessary changes that enable it to be effective. And, of course, weight loss brands stress simplicity, not the complex set of lifestyle changes necessary to deliver benefits.

We are delighted to announce that Nicholas will explore “The Future Resumed” in the upcoming 2023 edition of his signature New Paradigms report! Offering insights into unmet consumer needs, demographic drivers, emerging markets and more, this report will provide an essential strategic review of key factors impacting the CHC industry. To pre-order your copy at a discounted rate, or for more information, please contact