Pivoting and pulling through; verbs used to define health and fitness companies successfully maneuvering the pandemic.
And sharp pivots and pulls it has been. Companies that have survived and companies that have emerged are certainly adapting to ensure that their offerings remain steadfast while we wait in earnest for the pandemic dust to settle.
According to a recent industry report published by consultants and partners at McKinsey and Company:
“The shift to digital and online was perhaps even bigger than at first thought – and is likely to become a permanent feature for the sector. Online share of sporting goods sales, for example, jumped in 2020 to a level previously forecast for 2024. Indeed, COVID-19 has ushered in the next normal for the industry, defined by factors including digital commerce, rising demand for sustainable products and increasing participation in individual forms of sport and exercise.”
The report goes onto to state:
“…eight trends are shaping the sporting goods industry in 2021. To win in the next normal, players must adapt to a shifting landscape.”
Read below for summaries of my top 11 fitness and wellness companies, both emerging and existing, that have garnered my attention and have either reacted, re-emerged or regained traction through the pandemic using one or more of the eight trends highlighted above.
With the global pandemic keeping many from direct access to health care and making those with less threatening ailments less inclined to visit their GP, the telemedicine market is fast expanding and the sister/brother websites Hers and Hims are banking on it with sales of $1million in its first week.
According to Lauren Armes of Well to Do,
“By giving consumers access to credible healthcare solutions in an affordable and convenient format, and creating a relatable yet aspirational brand identity, founder Andrew Dudum has cultivated consumer trust in an era of scepticism and hard-won loyalty.”
A platform which puts consumers in direct digital contact with licensed healthcare providers, Hims and Hers boasts an offering that features medical treatment for conditions relating to primary, mental, sexual and dermalogical health. After creating a profile and entering ones medical history and concerns, users are put in touch with a healthcare provider. Once a prognosis is reached, a prescription will be sent to your door.
Enabling U.S. members direct access to healthcare from the privacy of their home, the Hims and Hers websites have uniquely positioned themselves in the telemedicine market with further attention to growth and an increase in product categories set for 2021.
Nestlé’s aquisition of Mindful Chef and Freshly
Due to its ease of use, the food industry saw a rise in demand for direct to consumer foods and has wetted consumers appetites for more. With sales estimated to reach $19.92billion, it’s safe to say that meal delivery and recipe box services are here to stay.
Nestlé has taken note and, after three years of holding minority shares in U.S meal delivery service Freshly, it has now taken the majority stake. It’s a bold move made within a week of securing the majority of UK recipe box firm Mindful Chef. While both offerings boast food delivered to your door, Mindful Chef delivers all of the necessary ingredients, along with easy to follow directions to create your meals quickly and with zero waste. What’s more? Mindful Chef is true to its name and places sustainability at its core; Think grass-fed, sustainably caught, recycled denim insulation packaging and one meal donated to a child in poverty for each meal purchased.
Freshly is a service that removes all aspects of cooking and prep-work. There are over 30 chef-cooked meal options to choose from with each requiring just three minutes of cooking time. As a health conscious company, Freshly meals are made without chemical preservatives, artificial flavors or gluten and contains none of its 85+ “banned” ingredients. And while its main menu boasts nutrient dense meals with a balanced ratio of proteins, carbs and fats, Freshly also caters to a wide range of dietary needs and preferences.
Now an official sponsor to the 2021 CrossFit Games as well as garnering a five year deal with the PGA Tour, WHOOP is steadily climbing the ranks in world of fitness trackers. With a surge in use in the last year, WHOOP has now past the billion valuation mark after sealing a $100million investment round.
A strap which monitors sleep, fitness, recovery and “strain” levels of its users, the key differentiator in the WHOOP system lies within its sensors. While the WHOOP collects user data at 100 times per second, most heart rate monitors only do so every few minutes or during high-intensity workouts. This level of fit-tech has not gone unnoticed and athletes from all sporting arenas including NFL Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, pro-golfer Rory McIlroy and the NBA’s Kevin Durant have all invested. Further, countless users of WHOOP have used it to detect early symptoms of Covid-19, proving just how accurate these straps really are.
According to Will Ahmed, WHOOP CEO:
“I think when you’re building a business you have to adapt to the environment,” said Ahmed. “We’ve had to learn how to support our customers during an unusual time but also at a time where health monitoring has become more and more important,”
The best way to describe Class-ify? Uber for fitness instructors (but hopefully with less law suits). Class-ify diversifies itself as an outlet for both freelance fitness inctructors who want to connect with a global market and those members who want to continue using digital platforms to streamline their day. What’s more? Class-ify is giving their first 100 personal trainers shares in the company.
Offering a wide range of classes including HIIT, strength, Barre, breath work and yoga, Class-ify gives control of its website to its trainers, allowing them to work with autonomy based on their own schedules and skill sets. Class-ify hopes the flexibility offered and its array of classes will serve as a “one stop shop” for fitness enthusiasts of all levels and interests.
According to the McKinsey report on changes in consumer exercise behaviors:
“Digital fitness won’t fully replace traditional sports and exercise but rather will enhance them in a “bionic” hybrid model. Digital workouts will continue to be a hot trend for 2021 and beyond, particularly when they offer an engaging and inspiring element and allow remote exercising in a simulated community setting.”
With a 60% jump in revenue in 2020, Sweaty Betty’s expansion didn’t pivot the pandemic, it steered directly through it. In 2020 the women’s activewear brand expanded into the US market to strategically reach its female demographic through a partnership with major department store Nordstrom.
And while other big name athletic wear companies are looking to expand its demographic and increase its offerings, Sweaty Betty continues to focus on its female demographic. In watching the evolving fitness trends, learning from focus groups and shopping data, Sweaty Betty quickly reacted to the needs of its female followers. For instance, Sweaty Betty took notice of the dramatic increase in bike sales during the pandemic and has been developing a cycling line that focuses on functionality, comfort and performance.
According to Julia Struass , Sweaty Betty’s CEO, in a recent interview with Insider:
“She (our customer) first and foremost is an active woman, someone who values fitness, who looks at her lifestyle and it tends to be busy. It tends to be multifaceted and she’s looking for product that’s able to keep up with her.”
With the continued demand for both women’s athliesure and activewear, the market is expected to hold well into 2021 and beyond.
Firmly believing that online classes aren’t going anywhere, new business brand bande has created a platform that bridges the gap between physical and virtual class settings. With interactive locker rooms before and after each class, bande will connect its members with features such as class, group and “whisper” chats, direct class and instructor feedback and the opportunity to befriend other members. Monthly bande passes begin at $30 for four livestream classes and unlimited on-demand classes. Drop-in live classes are $15.
If you haven’t heard of this shoe maker yet, you will soon. With a steadfast and growing following, Allbirds latest funding round snatched $100million and had provided them with both ‘unicorn’ status and a $1.7billion valuation. But can a company which takes pride in its approach of reduction and simplicity keep up with its growing momentum? Standing by just three shoe models and limiting its collaborations, Allbirds is following a strategy all its own and has no intentions of running a model similar to that of Nike and other big name brands. Built initially through e-commerce alone, Allbirds plans to boost its physical offering by opening stores in 2021 while also working the sustainability front in a partnership with Adidas AG that creates a sneaker with almost no carbon footprint during its production.
While physical retail markets are under pressure with the rise in online product purchasing, Allbirds believes its US stores will be an important factor in validating its place in the big sneaker markets while serving consumers looking for the full retail experience.
In its 2020 acquisition of Mirror, an interactive workout device for all of your sweaty pursuits, lululemon has expanded its offerings outside of its well known athletic wear brand. Following a deal estimated around $500million, lululemon saw their Q3 sales increase in 2019 to 2020 by 22% ($1.1bn). With a pivot that continues to expand its fitness reach, lululemon isn’t playing it safe with a home workout device that competes directly with the Peloton market.
Known as an interactive workout platform, Mirror provides live and on-demand classes as well as personal training.
According to Calvin McDonald, Lululemon CEO.
“In 2019, we detailed our vision to be the experiential brand that ignites a community of people living the sweatlife through sweat, grow and connect. The acquisition of Mirror is an exciting opportunity to build upon that vision, enhance our digital and interactive capabilities, and deepen our roots in the sweatlife.”
Websites are taking note that platforms with mental health and fitness content saw its traffic double throughout 2020. To meet the rising demand for home workout videos, PopSugar recently launched PopSugar Fitness. And it paid off. 7 million people visited the PopSugar Fitness site in January 2021; a 50% increase.
Further, in knowing that mental health and wellbeing is just as important as physical health, PopSugar also focusing more of its articles and videos on sleep, stress and anxiety management, meditation, mindfulness and self-fulfillment.
The company we wish we had invested in when they first became an IPO. In 2020 Peloton stocks quadrupled from $19million in quarter 1 to $77million in quarter 4. Further, Peloton is leaving no region unturned as it launches this year in Australia, its first offering outside of its already successful American, Canadian, German and U.K markets.
With an offering of sleek treadmills and bikes, this fit-tech company will first begin selling its Bike, Bike+ and Digital app to its Asian-Pacific market. However, due to supply shortages, its planned Melbourne and Sydney retail spaces are still to be fully confirmed. To combat these shortages and continue moving forward, Peloton continues to invest millions to meet its rising consumer demand.
It’s no surprise the CrossFit brand is on my list. With a change in leadership in 2020 and the start of the CrossFit Open earlier this month, the brand has adapted its offerings to ensure its community becomes even more inclusive. As of this year the CrossFit Open will not only continue to feature their RX and scaled divisions, but we also see the introduction of Foundations, Equipment-Free and eight Adaptive divisions. And while most physical competitions have been placed on standstill, there are still virtual ones to join, allowing CrossFit’s steadfast following to remain accountable and keep their competitive edge a float.
Becker, Sabine; Berg, Achim; Kohli, Sajal, and Thiel Alexander. January 25th, 2021. “Sporting goods 2021: The next normal for an industry in flux.” McKinsey & Company. Retrieved March 12th, 2021.
Best, Dean. (November 6th, 2020). “Nestle makes mindful chef latest d2c acquisition.” Just Food. Retrieved March 11th, 2021.
Golden, Jessica. (October 28th, 2020). Whoop, maker of the fitness tracker that pro athletes love, is now valued at $1.2billion.” CNBC. Retrieved March 12th, 2021.
Matuszewski, Eric. January 6th, 2021. “Whoop becomes wearable partner of the PGA Tour, with heartrate data in video highlights. Forbes. Retrieved March 11th, 2021.
Parisa, Danny. (February, 23rd 2021). “Inside Allbirds growth strategy.” Glossy. March 15th, 2021.
Rao, Priya (March 9, 2021). “New fitness platform bande brings the interactivity of physical classes to digital.” Glossy. Retrieved March 15th, 2021.
Rider, Sam. November 16th, 2021. “Nestlé Bets On D2C Meal Delivery Boom With Mindful Chef & Freshly Deals.” Well to Do Global. Retrieved March 12th, 2021.
Walker, Tom. (June 30th, 2020). “Mirror sells to Lululemon for US$500m.” HCM. Retrieved March 11th, 2021.
Walker, Tom. (March 11th, 2021). “Changes in consumer exercise behaviors are here to stay.” Leisure Opportunities. Retrieved March 15th, 2021.