As we enter a third year under a cloud of the coronavirus pandemic, the global wellness landscape continues to shift beneath our feet. With every new lockdown and unlocking, economic prospects rise and fall. Yet throughout this unprecedented era of instability, resilient and innovative wellness businesses have continued to prosper.
Wellness real estate (22.1%), mental wellness (7.2%) and healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss (3.6%) sectors have consistently shown strong pandemic growth, according to the latest market valuations. The Global Wellness Institute predicts further gains across wellness tourism, physical activity and spas, which will spearhead the industry’s rapid recovery through to 2025.
So what types of wellness businesses are best positioned to succeed over the next 12 months and beyond? What characteristics are set to win with both consumers and investors alike? Here we’ve mined leading industry experts for their tried-and-tested tips to make the most of 2022.
Businesses that are influencer-led
It’s never been easier to monetise your passion.
As highlighted in the Welltodo 2022 Consumer Wellness Trends Report – Kayla Itsines, Grace Beverley and especially Joe Wicks, all of whom started as fitness influencers, have established themselves as trusted experts, generating millions by launching reputable service-led fitness offerings.
Their success, in part, is due to a huge captive online audience. “We are living in an age where anyone can build a knowledge-based business serving clients online,” explains Lauren Armes, Business Coach, CEO and Founder of Welltodo. “More than half of the world’s population have
internet access and desire to leverage it for learning and growth — and wellness is a sector of prime interest.”
Armes has helped the likes of Dr Hazel Wallace, Nicky Clinch, Amy Rushworth and Becki Rabin seize this opportunity, leveraging their specialist knowledge to establish trusted wellness brands that have flourished over the past 12 months.
“As far as growing and scaling this type of business, it’s critical to have a clear business model for building an audience, as well as a clearly articulated solution to a real problem,” says Armes.
The past year, she continues, has seen a dramatic increase in consumer adoption of wellness practices. “The barriers to adoption have been removed and the level of ease by which you can access wellness practices like yoga, therapy, coaching and nutritional support has vastly improved.”
As a result, investors are banking on digital wellness platforms that solve real consumer problems en masse. According to the Influencer Marketing Factory, the market for “creators” is estimated to be worth more than $104.2 billion and is increasing daily.
And according to Global Market Insights, the e-learning market size surpassed $250 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to grow at an exponential CAGR of over 21% between 2021 and 2027.
“These two statistics, as well as the increase in global internet access, demonstrates a clear trajectory in which wellness experts can thrive,” notes Armes. “In the wake of the pandemic, wellness has never been more relevant – and has created a clear need for more knowledge and training that supports the adoption of healthier habits and lifestyles.”
For experts who have knowledge to share, she says, “the sky’s the limit”.
Businesses that are ethically-minded
COP26 presented a watershed moment for the wellness industry. Striving to reach carbon zero is now a non-negotiable if you want to stay relevant — both in the minds of consumers and investors.
Larry Fink, head of the $8 trillion BlackRock fund, observed in January 2021 that the ongoing “climate transition presents a historic investment opportunity” — and investors seemed to agree.
The Global Sustainable Investment Alliance found that ESG (environment, social and governance) assets grew to $35.3 trillion in 2020 — roughly $1 in every $3 managed globally — and you can bet that number has risen again in 2021.
This trend has seen sustainable pet food become one of the surprising success stories of the pandemic — especially in the UK, where a staggering 3.2 million pets have been welcomed into British homes since March 2020.
Fresh dog food company Different Dog has raised £1.3 million, insect protein brand Percuro raised £750K, and London startup The Pack launched a range of plant-based dog food, drawing high profile celebrity endorsement and investment.
In 2022, with ethically-minded consumers becoming increasingly discerning, brands will only thrive if they can demonstrate they are part of the solution, rather than the problem.
Businesses that are built for e-commerce
Convenience in the era of coronavirus has become a competitive expectation.
Within the world of wellness, this has never been more evident than in the domains of food and fitness, where DTC meal delivery companies such as Mindful Chef and Gousto, and app-based workout tools like Freeletics and Fabletics FIT, have ballooned in popularity.
A big driver is access to the internet. More than 6.37 billion people (80.63% of the world’s population) now have a smartphone, making it easier to shop online. Social commerce via social media platforms has become more streamlined and trusted too, with it now accounting for 3.4% of all e-commerce sales.
Seizing the convergence of these trends, Renata Stuhlberger and Alessandra Kauffmann left their jobs in banking and consultancy to launch healthy frozen food delivery service Simple Foods in February 2021.
“We worked long hours but never really had time to eat well,” explains Stuhlberger. “We struggled to find something that was tasty, convenient and healthy at the same time. So we created Simple Foods.”
And while she admits the pandemic imposed many challenges, in terms of logistic complexities, cost management and hiring, it also brought huge e-commerce growth opportunities.
“There is a big window of opportunity for businesses that help people adapt to the ‘new normal’ imposed by the pandemic,” says the Co-founder, pointing to £400K the startup has raised in its first year.
“The pandemic altered the way people find joy in their lives, so indulgence has been a key ingredient of our success,” Stuhlberger continues. The second, undoubtedly, has been convenience.
“We dedicate a lot of attention to convenience by offering next-day delivery, fast customer service and by being extremely reactive — and proactive — in developing food that our customers ask to see in our range,” she adds. “Convenience has never been more important.”
Businesses that provide hybrid solutions
While the online wellness market has exploded as a consequence of the pandemic — offline remains as important as ever.
A recent ClassPass survey reflecting on 2021, found in-person classes and appointments accounted for nine of the 10 most booked reservations on the app, with strength workouts and nail treatments topping the charts.
For industry veteran and TRX Founder Randy Hetrick, who launched spinoff mobile fitness franchise OutFit last year, brands that can marry the best of both online and offline in a consistent hybrid package will excel.
“I don’t believe virtual is going to replace gyms,” he tells Welltodo. “If I thought that even a company like OutFit would be doomed.” Instead, he says, virtual training technology needs to be built into every businesses’ offering.
“Consumers have been trained over the last 18 months to do things differently and the convenience factor is now huge,” Hetrick continues.
“But one of the great things that has come out of the pandemic is sub-scale operators and individual trainers don’t have to build this technology.”
Instead, he says, it can be licensed and business owners can make themselves more “pandemic-resistant” to ride out the challenges that come with every new variant.
Armed with these hybrid tools, the GWI predicts a bright future for the global physical activity sector, anticipating the industry’s third-largest market to nearly double from $738 billion in 2020 to $1.2 trillion in 2025.
Businesses that are female-founded
Female employees have been both stung and spurred on by the pandemic.
According to a survey from UK professional women’s network AllBright, while women endured disproportionate professional setbacks due to the pandemic, 61% dreamt of a complete career change and three quarters hoped to start their own business.
One in four had already started on the launch of their new venture by late 2020, with publishing, and health and fitness the most popular sectors, closely followed by recruitment, beauty and finance.
Running concurrently with this ‘Great Female Resignation’ of 2021 has been a significant rise in brands run by women, for issues that specifically impact women. Companies like Stix, Nurx, Evvy and Blume are breaking down taboos around women’s sexual health.
Womaness and P&G-backed Kindra, for example, are catering to those experiencing menopause. And women’s health disruptors such as Clue are spearheading a global femtech market hurtling towards $60 billion in value, with demand especially high in developing nations.
If you’re one of those inspired to launch your own business in 2022 — whether within the women’s health sector or not — Simple Foods’ Stuhlberger has two golden rules.
“First, have a business partner that is aligned with you in terms of values and that compliments you in terms of skills,” she says. “Launching a business is both exciting and tough, and feelings can oscillate a lot, so it’s vital you have one partner backing another.”
Second, she stresses, is that you need to be extremely passionate about what you do. “It might sound obvious, but it is so important. You will live and breathe your own business, so it better be something that really excites you.”