Posted: Tue 7th Mar 2017
A sustained boom in the national appetite for physical and mental health has seen a similarly exploding number of healthy new start-up brands innovating to meet the growing global consumption.
This includes firms offering everything from healthy nutritional supplements, relaxation, ethically-sourced natural foods, personalised fitness equipment, wearable fitness tech, fitness training and clothing.
The question is, have we all become more conscious consumers or have we finally realised Dry January and a half-hearted stroll on the treadmill once a week does not offer the long-term health benefits we once believed it did? Liz Slee investigates.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, the well-being trend grew by 10.6% between 2013 and 2015 and is now worth $3.72 trillion globally.
The number of people searching for the term 'vegan' and 'dairy-free' is booming. Searches for the word 'vegan' have increased by 221% over three years according to a study by Hitwise.
You only have to think of the progress of subscription food boxes like Hello Fresh, healthy snacking firm Graze or the stratospheric success of Deliciously Ella to realise the boom in new brands innovating the the eating space. It's no surprise then that small business insurance specialist Simply Business reported an increase of business insurance applications from nutritionists and dietitians up by 272% over the past five years, while start-up quotes for independent gyms soared by 59%, and personal trainers by 24%.
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: "We've been operating in the start-up space for ten years and over the last few years have seen a steady increase in the number of well-being brands coming to us for advice about starting-up.
"We took a delegation of food brands on a trade mission to Dublin last year and around half of them were offering clean-eating products such as nuts and seeds, or dairy free ice cream.
"In fact, this year we have added a brand new event to our calendar as a direct result of popular demand. The Wellness Exchange on 10 March in London is set to see brands offering mental and physical fitness, diet and nutrition and active wear, pitch to buyers and learn more about how to run a successful, sustainable, business."
So who are the people behind the new wellness brands?
Nutrition case study: InÃ©s Hermida, Macacha (Shoreditch)
InÃ©s Hermida was the head of health and beauty at Whole Foods when she came up with the idea for her natural protein shake business Macacha in 2015.
She said: "I would go running in the morning before work, and started using protein shakes as a quick snack solution before I went to the office. It was so hard to find a natural and clean protein shake, so I would blend my own with superfoods, greens, probiotics and herbal ingredients. My knowledge of these amazing ingredients came from my experience at Whole Foods, and developing my product at Macacha was a natural development from my work there.
"We just launched a couple of weeks ago at Whole Foods, but in the last 12 months we have seen a huge increase in interest in nutrition. It's exciting to see fitness studios adding more clean protein options to their menus around London and the UK. The interest in vegan products is also growing rapidly."
She added: "The biggest opportunity that the wellness trend offers is to make us a better society by making us more conscious consumers and more aware of the environment and animal welfare. Products that incorporate that mindful and holistic approach, where the quality of ingredients and transparency of sourcing and awareness of their environmental impact is integral to the brand, have a better chance of success than ever."
What would she say to anyone thinking about giving up their job and setting up a business in the wellness trend? "For me, I think working in the wellness industry first could be a great transition before launching your own business. Building that network and really getting to know and understand how the industry works is invaluable."
Sports equipment case study: Chris Bailey, Disrupt Sports (Bristol)
Chris Bailey set up Disrupt Sports, a range of custom-made, personalised sports equipment including surf boards and yoga mats, in 2014 with his co-founder Gary Elphick. The business now has offices in sports havens California, Sydney and Bristol.
Chris said: "After working for a large corporate company, I decided I wanted to go back to do my own thing again. I was taking some time out, and living in Sydney where I had gotten into surfing. Everywhere I looking I was seeing the 'one size fits all' type of equipment. From surfboards, to yoga mats, I was finding the shapes, sizes and designs were all dictated by someone else. I knew what I wanted in terms of look and feel of my board, yet every shop I went into, they just pointed me to some pre-made model that everyone else had, so I thought there must be so many people who have the same problem."
In the past 12 months the firm has seen an incredible 300% increase in interest for its products. Chris added: "People are much more aware of healthy living, and lifestyle, and are making the commitments to improve their lives. Wellness is a growing industry, people are looking for a premium product from brands with strong values and beliefs.
Chris added: "For anyone starting out, the biggest learning is that you must scale your business equally - sales, marketing, operations and finance - as one without the other is a potential to fail. Also remember It is OK to make mistakes. But you must learn fast, as you cannot afford to make the same mistake twice. If you lose a sale or something goes wrong, find out what went wrong, and how you can put actions in place to stop it happening in the future."
Fitness start-up case study: Pip Black, Frame (London)
Pip Black set up pay-as-you-go exercise studio chain Frame with co-founder Joan Murphy in 2009 with the launch of Frame Shoreditch. They have gone on to open studios in Queens Park, Kings Cross and Victoria.
Pip said: "Exercise had been such an important part of both of our lives growing up, and we were really beginning to miss the 'feel good' rush of endorphins we were used to getting after exercise. We were working long hours in advertising and partying too hard, so we started on a search for exercise that required no commitment, was affordable and actually fun. In the end, as we couldn't find anything that worked, so we decided to create it ourselves."
The company has seen its retail and cafÃ© sales double in the past year, along with an increase in class bookings.
On the concept of the wellness trend, Pip said: "I'd like to think that it's not a trend, but instead as a generation, we're becoming more aware of how to feel good, and start taking more care of ourselves. There are huge opportunities for individuals and businesses to improve the quality of our lives, whether through nutrition, exercise or calming the mind. As this is people's health we're talking about, it is our duty to act responsibly and to not just see this movement as a way to make money, but to put 'wellness' at the heart of what we do.
"We like to think of this as being healthy, happy and full of energy, with strong relationships. The elements that get thrown around on social media these days such as six packs, gluten-free cakes and the ability to do 10 pull ups, do not always lead to these things, and we need to keep this in the back of our minds."
What would she say to anyone setting up a wellness firm today? "It's not going to be an easy ride. You have to be prepared to work crazy hours and to say 'bye' to your social life for a while. Write a business plan that includes a proper set of financials. Without doing this, you'll never know if the business is capable of making money and succeeding.
"No matter how wonderful your idea, if the numbers don't work, you won't make it. I have recently read Business for Bohemians, by Tom Hodgkinson, which is a fantastic read for anyone thinking of starting a business or in the early stages. He makes a lot of sense and I think his attitude is very akin to a lot of people who would be interested in this industry."
If you're starting or growing a wellness business, join us at The Wellness Exchange in London on 10 March. Book a ticket here.