There a few holidays quite like Thanksgiving. I mean when else do we regularly get a day off toward the middle of the work week, surround ourselves with family and friends, and gorge ourselves with a dozen different types of food until our pants no longer fit? And for me, as a sports lover, I get to watch my Detroit Lions play, which has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition.
But Thanksgiving also has its negative connotation for being the holiday, or the start of the holiday season, that tends to pack on unwanted pounds for millions of Americans. It's no surprise that New Year's resolutions commonly entail losing the weight put on during the roughly five- or six-week holiday season, which begins on Thanksgiving.
With 35.7% of the nation considered obese already according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of the nation considered overweight or obese according to standard Body Mass Index calculations, and the obesity officially classified as a disease by the American Medical Association, obesity awareness is growing right along with our waistlines. Thankfully, the number of companies creating product lines, services, or drugs to help us battle the bulge this holiday season is also increasing.
Here are five companies that could help us battle the bulge this holiday season.
Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM)
Staying in shape this holiday season starts with eating more nutritious foods. That doesn't mean we can't indulge in that slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream or add a little extra gravy to our mashed potatoes, but it does mean a growing focus on locally growing and organic products, especially meats, this season.
Make no mistake about it, Whole Foods isn't going to win any awards for being the low-price leader in any categories, but the assumption from consumers entering its stores is that they'll find a far better organic and locally grown selection of produce and meats than they will at any other major chain store. This lends Whole Foods some incredible pricing power and a very stable customer base, and it also sets up the expectation from the consumer that they're getting better quality food for that premium price.
Walgreen (NYSE: WAG)
After eating the right foods, you might assume that a nutrition plan-based company or gym chain was up next, but you'll find none of that from me as exercise is assumed and consumer loyalty to nutritional plans is often horrendously low.
Instead, I would point to a drugstore like Walgreen, which is essentially a one-stop shop for health advice. In addition to doling out pharmaceutical products that can help people lose weight, Walgreen has also been one of the primary supporters of Obamacare. By helping to promote this new health reform law, the thinking would be that more people being insured would drive preventative doctors' visits, and would ultimately help curb some of the factors that lead to obesity, such as high cholesterol and diabetes.
Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA) and VIVUS (NASDAQ: VVUS)
When it comes to a pharmacological solution to trimming the fat, nothing can surpass the only two FDA-approved weight control management drugs, Belviq from Arena and Qsymia from VIVUS.
Now, understand that these drugs are prescribed in cases where there are chronic weight management issues, not just a pair of tight pants after a big meal. However, with no anti-obesity drugs approved in more than a decade and suddenly two reaching pharmacy shelves within the past year and change, the hope for slimming waistlines is high.
As it stands now both Belviq and Qsymia offer their own unique advantages. Qsymia, for example, delivered a higher percentage of weight-loss in trials, which you would think might give it a natural advantage over Belviq. However, Belviq's safety profile is preferred by physicians, and it also has a global marketing partner in Eisai compared to VIVUS, which is marketing Qsymia on its own. Neither drug has really lived up to its potential yet, but the reachable market for each drug is certainly big enough to accommodate both therapies.
Zeltiq Aesthetics (NASDAQ: ZLTQ)
Last, but certainly not least, we have Zeltiq Aesthetics, which utilizes its proprietary medical devices for the selective reduction of fat in patients. Understandably, we're not talking about a pharmacological solution here or even a long-term one necessarily. This is more of an aesthetic solution in cases where diet and exercise aren't meeting the patients' goal, but it should be noted that people will pay top dollar to look healthier and thinner, so Zeltiq's target audience is actually very large.
Zeltiq's primary product is its CoolSculpting System, which is used to freeze fat cells under the skin. The product is designed not to harm healthy cells and allows frozen fat cells to die off below the skin and be removed from the body naturally over time. This lack of surgery creates no downtime for the patient and is about as pain-free as it gets!
It's pretty evident that demand in Zeltiq's CoolSculpting device is increasing dramatically because in just the past two quarters, it's doubled its full-year sales growth projections twice, first from 10% to 20% and more recently from 20% to 40%. It's an under-the-radar fat-busting name you should definitely know moving forward.
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