Despite the huge economic fallout of COVID-19, and for investors, and an initial pivot towards caution, in 2020 the wellness industry continued to experience an influx of venture capital, M&A deals and successful crowdfunding campaigns — demonstrating its resilience and the wealth of opportunities that still exist across the market.
For Gymshark, ClassPass, Keep and WHOOP, valuations in excess of $1 billion saw them crowned the latest wellness unicorns, while for startups in the mental health sector, over $1 billion in collective funding helped to drive category-wide disruption and awareness.
Digital fitness propositions caught the attention of high-profile entrepreneurs and athletes, with connected fitness newcomers including Tonal, Hydrow, CLMBR, Mirror and JAX JOX each raising millions of dollars.
‘Green & Clean’ beauty and F&B brands, meanwhile, leveraged increased interest from consumers to secure noteworthy deals to fuel future growth — a trend we explore in our 2020 Consumer Wellness Trends Report.
To highlight how that capital is inspiring innovation and shaping the trajectory of the wellness industry, we’ve curated some of the most significant and influential investments of 2020.
January: Fitness + Plant-Based F&B
Fitness subscription platform ClassPass closed a $285m Series E investment round, to become the first wellness unicorn of 2020.
The funding, which came from investors including L Catterton, Apax Digital and existing investor Temasek, was earmarked to continue rapidly scaling its proprietary reservation and booking technology across the globe. Since then the company has launched several services designed to better reflect demand for digital offerings in the wake of COVID-19. Read more
It predicts that 2021 will see more consumers take a hybrid approach to fitness, fusing digital and in-person services, its 2021 strategy is likely to reflect that.
The investment is being used to continue accelerating its growth within retail propositions and bolster hiring across its sales, e-commerce and managerial teams.
Notable mentions: Elsewhere, British plant-based startup THIS raised £4.7m in seed funding and sleep brand Simba raised £18.2m.
February: Meditation + Women’s Health
In another huge year for meditation brands, Headspace raised $93m in new equity and debt financing. The round was led by blisce, with participation from Waverley Capital and Times Bridge.
The meditation giant has since gone on to launch partnerships with UK retailer Boots, social media platform Snapchat and children’s TV show Sesame Street, as well as hiring musician John Legend as Chief Music Officer. With the category showing no sign of slowing, and investors continuing to back its growth, Headspace hopes to engage new demographics through more tailored and relevant content.
Maven, a US-based women’s and family digital health company closed a $45m Series C funding round led by Icon Ventures, with participation from existing investors Sequoia, Oak HC/FT, Spring Mountain Capital, Female Founders Fund, Harmony Partners, and celebrities including Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.
The deal marked one of a wave of digital health investments in 2020, highlighting the opportunities that exist for disruptive startups addressing critical gaps in care and reimagining the customer experience.
Notable mentions: Multinational food company Kellogg’s announced it would be investing in a collection of its brands, including RXBAR and MorningStar Farms. And Alpha Foods, a vegetarian prepared food manufacturer, raised $28m to leverage the growing demand for plant-based products in the US.
March: Mental Health + Plant-Based Meat
The company, which provides personalised recommendations based on each individual’s needs – including therapy, coaching, and medications – and offers fast access to top evidence-based providers, has since grown significantly. In 2020, it has added more than 800,000 new members to the population eligible to receive Lyra benefits, bringing its total member population to more than 1.5 million
It also raised a further $110m in August to cater to American workers experiencing a surge in mental health challenges as they grapple with historic adversity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a national reckoning with racial injustice.
Impossible Foods: $500m
Continuing the staggering amount of funding pouring into the plant-based meat category, Impossible Foods secured approximately $500m, bringing its total funding to date to almost $1.3bn.
Funds from the Series F round led by new investor Mirae Asset Global Investments, with participation from existing investors including Khosla Ventures, Horizons Ventures, and Temasek, were earmarked to invest in fundamental research and innovation, accelerate its manufacturing scaleup, expand its retail presence and its availability in key international markets, and accelerate commercialization of next-generation products including Impossible Sausage and Impossible Pork.
Notable mentions: In other deals, sleep tracking ring Oura secured $28m from Forerunner Ventures, Gradient Ventures and Square. And plant-based meal delivery company allplants completed a record-breaking £3.4 million funding round on investment platform Seedrs, attracting over 1,800 investors from its loyal customer base in addition to VC firm Octopus Ventures. Read more
April: Digital Fitness
Tempo officially launched its AI-powered at-home fitness concept, backed by $17.5m in investment, joining a swathe of startups competing within the rapidly growing digital fitness category.
With the global digital fitness market expected to reach an estimated $27.4 billion by 2022, brands such as Mirror, Tonal, Hydrow and FightCamp are all pinning their hopes on becoming ‘the next Peloton’ of the at-home fitness revolution. However, Tempo believes it has the edge as the first at-home weight training solution that can count reps and calories burned, recommend weights and offer real-time feedback.
Aaptiv, a provider of premium digital health and wellness content that has garnered over 200,000 paying members since its launch in 2016, raised an undisclosed amount from Insight Partners. At the time, the startup said the capital would be used to continue expanding its Enterprise channel, which was launched to provide classes via applications on other platforms.
The startup has raised more than $60m to date from investors including Amazon and Disney and has since gone on to explore a sale. Read more
Notable mentions: Moshi Sleep, a sleep and meditation app for children, raised $12m funding round led by Accel. The venture capital arm of French food corporation Danone ploughed $10m into Laird Superfood — a plant-based health foods company with products including functional mushroom blends, coconut waters, coconut sugars and superfood coffee creamers. Read more
May: CBD + Digital Fitness
Chinese fitness app Keep achieved a $1bn valuation after raising $80m in a Series E funding round led by China-focused growth-stage investor Jeneration Capital Management, as the number of people using fitness apps boomed around the globe.
Its user base jumped 23.2% year on year in Q1 with users accessing the service through 18.1 million devices per month for an average of 20.4 minutes per day — a trend reflective of the new lifestyles and behaviours formed amid a global pandemic. And one investors appear confident will continue to stick in the long-term.
Canopy growth: $174m
Constellation Brands increased its stake in Canopy Growth Corporation in a deal worth $174m, despite Canopy having to postpone the launch of a line of CBD drinks due to not being able to scale its production to commercial levels.
“While global legalization of cannabis is still in its infancy, we continue to believe the long-term opportunity in this evolving market is substantial,” said Bill Newlands, president and chief executive officer of Constellation Brands. “Canopy is best positioned to win in the emerging cannabis space and we are confident in the strategic direction of the company under David Klein and his team.” Read more
Notable mentions: Thriva, an at-home health testing company secured a £4m extension to its Series A funding round from Berlin-based VC Target Global. Functional beverage brands Flow Alkaline Water and Hydrant, meanwhile raised $45m and $5.7m respectively as demand for ‘drinks with benefits’ continued to surge.
June: Digital Fitness
Playbook, a fitness app aimed at giving content creators the tools they need to cultivate their own community and monetize content directly, closed a $3m seed round with participation from angels including Giphy founder Alex Chung, StyleSeat founder Melody McCloskey, Eventbrite co-founder Renaud Visage and former head of growth at Uber Ed Baker.
The startup, which currently boasts more than 150 fitness trainers, says it saw 140% new creator account growth in 2020, in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. And has a waitlist of several thousand creators that want to join the platform.
It has since raised a further $9.3m in a deal that reflects the shift towards personal trainers looking for ways to unlock their personal value and better engage with the new digital consumer — a trend we explore in our 2021 Consumer Wellness Trends Report. Read more
Athleisure powerhouse lululemon announced it was set to acquire at-home fitness startup Mirror in a deal worth $500m.
As the fitness industry continued to navigate an inflection point accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shifts in consumer behaviour, lululemon was one of many businesses making moves to anchor itself within the evolving fitness landscape.
Notable mentions: In a series of shock events, CrossFit owner and ex-CEO Greg Glassman sold the fitness company following backlash over remarks he made about the black lives matter movement. Terms of the deal were not officially disclosed, however, the business was said to be worth approximately $4bn. Read more
July: Plant-Based F&B + Men’s Health
Plant-based milk brand Oatly sold a minority $200m stake to a group of investors including Oprah Winfrey, Jay Z, Blackstone Growth, former Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, Orkila Capital and Rabo Corporate Investments. As part of this transaction, Oatly’s founders also reinvested in the company’s growth by providing additional capital.
The injection of capital was earmarked to fund the company’s overall growth plans, which include expansion in current markets and new production plants and related jobs in Europe, the United States and Asia, as the dairy alternatives market races towards $25.12bn.
Ro — a patient-driven telehealth company powering three digital health clinics: Roman for men’s health, Rory for women’s health, and Zero for smoking cessation — raised $200m in new funding from existing investors General Catalyst and others including FirstMark Capital, Torch, SignalFire, TQ Ventures, Initialized Capital, 3L and BoxGroup.
The business, which has raised $376m since it launched in 2017 is now reported to be valued at $1.5bn. It forms part of a growing cohort of startups including Hims, Manual, Asystem Vault and others that have caught the attention of investors by breaking down men’s health taboos and widening accessibility to solutions.
Plant-based chicken nugget startup Nuggs announced the launch of SIMULATE, a new parent company, which will launch new nutrition technologies over the next few months.
The moves followed news of a new funding round, which brought the company’s total investment to date to $11m. Nuggs’ $4.1m investment came from Lerer Hippeau (via BN), AgFunder, Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit), Walter Robb (former CEO of Whole Foods), and Jasmine Tookes (the model and Victoria’s Secret Angel).
Notable mentions: Real, a startup reimagining the way individuals experience therapy raised $6m in a round of funding led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Gwyneth Paltrow. Fast-growing health and technology company Kindbody, which provides fertility, gynaecology, and family-building care, secured $32m in a Series B funding round led by Perceptive Advisors, bringing its total amount raised to $64m. And Proper, a sleep brand based in New York, raised $9.5m in a funding round led by Casa Verde Capital, with participation from Redesign Health.
August: Athleisure + Mental Wellness
The investment, which is rumoured to be in the region of £300m, saw General Atlantic take a 21 percent stake in the fast-growing startup. The brand hopes the partnership will facilitate further growth in North America where it already boasts its largest customer base. Read more
Ginger, a leader in on-demand mental healthcare, raised $50m in a Series D funding round led by Advance Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. The latest round of investment brought the company’s total funding to over $120m.
According to Ginger, at a time when the world’s mental health crisis has reached an all-time high following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has observed record-high demand for mental health support. By delivering evidence-based behavioural health coaching, therapy and psychiatry right from a smartphone, Ginger says it is the only end-to-end telemental health provider designed to meet this skyrocketing demand at a fraction of the cost of traditional care.
Notable mentions: Saie, a clean beauty brand that launched exclusively on Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle platform Goop in 2019, closed a seed funding round led by Unilever Ventures. Other participants included Gwyneth Paltrow, G9 Ventures and Stage 1 Fund. Impossible Foods secured another whopping $200m in its latest funding round, led by new investor Coatue, and Carrot Fertility, a leading global fertility benefits provider for employers has closed a $24m Series B funding round led by US Venture Partners.
September: Digital Fitness + Functional Beverages
Freeletics, an AI-powered fitness coaching app, announced the closing of a $25m Series B funding round led by US-based JAZZ Venture Partners and Causeway Media Partners, with support from KKCG.
The deal followed a period of growth for the brand which saw its user base grew by 11 million to over 51 million in 2020 and its daily active users triple compared with 2019.
The capital has been earmarked to develop new technologies, expand the company’s global footprint and build new business verticals. Read More
Liquid I.V.: acquired by Unilever for an undisclosed amount
Unilever announced its intention to acquire Liquid I.V., a US-based health-science nutrition and wellness company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Brandin Cohen. Liquid I.V.’s electrolyte drink mixes utilise Cellular Transport Technology, which enhances the rapid absorption of water and other key nutrients into the bloodstream, helping people feel better, faster.
The brand reflects the growth of a consumer trend we explore in our 2021 Consumer Wellness Trends Report, in which health-conscious individuals are turning to athlete-engineered offerings to unlock optimal performance.
Notable mentions: Emme, a healthcare technology company focused on women’s health raised $2.5m in seed funding led by Magnetic Ventures. Compass Pathways, a mental health care company dedicated to accelerating patient access to evidence-based innovation in mental health has filed for a US IPO.
October: Wellness Tech + Plant-Based Meat
Human performance company WHOOP closed a $100m Series E financing round at a $1.2bn valuation led by IVP.
The new round of investment followed a period of high growth for the wellness unicorn, which offers users a monthly subscription for 24/7 health monitoring across sleep, recovery, strain, and more. According to the brand, it plans to use the capital to invest in product and software development, global expansion, and membership services. Listen to more
Jax Jox: £13m
Connected fitness startup JAXJOX secured £7.7m in a Series A round of funding with investors Dowgate Capital Ltd. and entrepreneur Nigel Wray, bringing its total funding raised to date to £13m.
The capital will be used for the expansion and development of its forthcoming JAXJOX InteractiveStudio – a digital at-home fitness platform with connected free-weight equipment that creates personalised data points based on the user’s performance.
What sets it apart from the growing number of players in the category, such as Peloton, Hydrow, Tonal, Mirror, Forme Life and so on, is its compact design, accessible entry point and versatility, argues the brand. Read more
Meatless farm: $31m
Plant-based meat brand Meatless Farm raised $31m from new and existing investors to support the expansion of its pre-packaged and plant-based products into the UK, Europe, US and Asia.
It announced its intention to expand into new regions and further establish the brand in existing markets, as well as plans to grow its product lines.
The deal demonstrated investors’ confidence in the future trajectory of the plant-based category, which is predicted to grow by $4.2bn by 2021. Read more
Notable mentions: Direct-to-consumer supplement brand Hims announced it was going public just three years after it got its start. The company, valued at $1.6bn, said the transaction will deliver up to $280m in cash. Future, a subscription-based at-home fitness app that virtually teams users with a real-life fitness coach, closed a $24m Series B funding round led by Trustbridge Partners. On-demand wellness app Urban closed a £6m funding round on investment platform Seedrs, smashing its $2m target. And maker of muscle recovery devices Hyperice raised $48m in a Series A funding round led by Main Street Advisors and SC Holdings. Listen to more
November: DTC Meal Delivery + Personalised Supplements
Mindful Chef: undisclosed
Nestle announced it had scooped a majority stake in UK recipe box service Mindful Chef for an undisclosed fee.
It closely follows the company’s acquisition of US meal delivery service Freshly in a whopping $1.5 billion deal, in a move that demonstrates its confidence in the direct-to-consumer recipe box and meal delivery sector –– a market that has exploded under the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Global recipe box sales are expected to hit $19.92 billion by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 12.8%, according to forecasts from Grand View Research. Read more
Bayer announced the closing of its investment in Care/of, giving it majority ownership in the privately owned, personalized direct-to-consumer nutrition company.
Care/of, which helps consumers build a daily routine of taking nutritional supplements tailored to their needs aims to simplify the vitamin category through personalization, technology, and customer experience. It is hoped the acquisition will further Bayer’s strategic business objectives by strengthening the company’s presence in the high-growth area of personalised nutrition. Listen to more
Levels, a biowearable system providing real-time feedback on how your diet impacts your health, closed a $12m seed round led by a16z, one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital firms whose portfolio includes Airbnb, Facebook, Instagram, Lyft, Pinterest, Slack, Stripe and Waymo.
The round also included participation from angel investors including Marc Randolph (co-founder and first CEO of Netflix), Dick Costolo (former CEO of Twitter), Michael Arrington (Founder of TechCrunch), and Matt Dellavedova (NBA, Cleveland Cavaliers).
Notable mentions: Running app Strava completed a $110m Series F financing round led by TCV and Sequoia Capital. Purpose-driven eatery Everytable, which provides affordable healthy meals for underserved areas, closed a $16m Series B funding round, and CLMBR, the latest in a slew of connected fitness technology providers, announced funding from Jay Z and Chad Hurley, co-founder and former CEO of YouTube.
December: Meditation + Clean Beauty
Meditation app Calm raised $75m in Series C financing, valuing the company at $2 billion. Existing investor Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round with participation from TPG and more, bringing its total funding to date to $217 million.
Profitable since 2016, Calm continues rapid growth with over 100 million downloads and 4 million paying members. One primary driver is Calm for Business, the brand’s enterprise arm, which covers more than 10 million lives through employer partnerships.
Vegan beauty brand BYBI completed a $7 million funding round.
The five-year-old sustainable startup, which has seen its year over year growth jump by 200% over the past year, revealed plans for US growth, as well as its vision to become one of the first carbon-neutral beauty brands by the end of 2020.
Like many clean beauty brands, it has experienced an influx of engagement throughout the pandemic, with its products remaining relevant for both health-conscious consumers and those having more time to invest in themselves. Read more
Notable mentions: Unilever announced it will acquire SmartyPants Vitamins, a US‐based supplement company founded in 2011. Function of Beauty, a creator of customizable hair, skin, and body care products, raised a $150 million strategic minority investment from L Catterton, and others. Mosa Meat, a European food technology company which introduced the world’s first cultured beef hamburger in 2013, closed an oversubscribed Series B funding round led by Luxembourg-based Blue Horizon Ventures.