How health and wellness has blossomed into big business

Cowshed wellness product branding by Spinach (spinachbranding.com)

We recently partnered with Cowshed on the company’s first comprehensive brand review in over two decades. It was a fascinating journey working with such a progressive brand; a pioneer in the modern wellness movement. The world of health, fitness, nutrition, beauty has evolved beyond recognition in the two decades since Soho House opened its first spa in Somerset, England. The Cowshed Spa introduced a modern way to relax and unwind – not in a clinical setting but rather in a beautifully designed space, offering products crafted from the natural ingredients found in the walled garden of Babington House.

The atmosphere at Cowshed Spa was young and vibrant, and the products, with their cheeky names, appealed to a young customer with spending power. Aficionados included model and actress Kate Moss and Sadie Frost; DJ Fat Boy Slim and Zoe Ball were married at Babington House, as were Soho House founder Nick Jones and TV presenter Kirsty Young. Today, Cowshed Spas can be found in major cities around the world, and the beauty and therapy products are sold internationally.

Babington House

The wellness industry is undoubtedly one of the fastest-growing businesses in high-income countries. Much of what we see these days is an evolution from the Cowshed brand model, yet crucially businesses are now working increasingly with the digital space to reach a global audience, and with technology to provide highly personalised consumer experiences. Wellness is only part of the equation. Clever companies are blossoming into lifestyle brands offering experiential consumer journeys.

A great example is Goop, a global brand with a cult following. Founded in 2008 by the former actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Goop was an early adaptor in seeing the sheer opportunities a lifestyle wellness brand can offer. This purely digital business model has since extended to bricks-and-mortar spaces with a handful of stylish physical stores and pop-ups in key locations in the US and Europe. Goop now has a beauty brand, a clothing line, it publishes health books and operates sell-out global events (referred to as adult summer camps) as well as a Netflix series. Paltrow’s strength has been in building a strong brand community – a tribe of highly loyal consumers.

So, what does the future hold for the wellness industry, and what lessons will be learnt from the current global pandemic? Before the lockdown, most leading fitness centres were already offering personalised regimes without the need to hire a personal trainer. No doubt going forward, personal data and AI will play an even more fundamental role in creating these tailored fitness programmes.

In addition, highlighted by the current lockdown, at-home devices and alternative virtual studios will become more of a focus. Many of today’s products are even designed to fit seamlessly into the home decor. Tonal, for instance, is a weight training device that uses an electromagnetic engine to create resistance akin to traditional pull-down weights machines and is designed to mimic a wall-mounted flat-screen TV. Elsewhere and just launched, FORME Life by industrial designer Yves Bahar is a single piece of equipment designed to meet the complete needs of an in-home gym, yoga and meditation studio, and personal trainer in one.  When not in use, the sleek mirror blends seamlessly into the home.

Photography is by Peter Belanger Photography, courtesy of FORME Life and fuseproject.

Alongside these tech-focused industries, natural wellness will continue to bloom. The current scenario – the anxieties we are all facing around the coronavirus pandemic and its implications – have boosted the popularity of spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation, with book sales on mindfulness rocketing in recent months. Going forward, the focus will continue to be centred on the wellbeing of mind and body; the current climate will certainly promote a more holistic approach to wellness to include mental health. Product development will continue along the sustainable and plant-based theme, with transparency a key driver as consumer expectation will encourage cosmetic companies to reveal their supplier journey.

Niche trends within this area include pregnancy wellbeing, with bespoke gyms and yoga studios focused on expecting mothers. Fit Pregnancy Club in New York, for instance, caters exclusively for pregnancy while another US brand, Hatch Mama Beauty, makes products to support the changing needs of women’s skin during pregnancy. Elsewhere, with conversations shifting around traditional masculinity, men’s beauty and wellness will also be an area that will continue to develop. Aesop is a great example of a brand that traditionally markets its products in a gender-neutral way to enduring success.

Allbirds sustainable product collection

Much like the fitness world, the beauty industry will continue a contradictory narrative of natural health and medical intervention for the pursuit of perfection. Here technology and science will increasingly help shape the skincare industry. Medical spas are becoming popular sites – these hybrid medicalised beauty spaces offer surgeon-standard services but in a friendly spa environment. The New York Dermatology Group’s Integral Health & Wellness, for instance, is a clinic staffed by certified dermatologists offering a hybrid of holistic and medical treatments in a refined spa-like setting.

Elsewhere, the performance clothing industry continues to lead with innovation, working with high-tech materials, sustainable fabrics and modern manufacturing methods, including 3D print. This is a really exciting sector which is advancing areas such as intelligent fabrics and biomapping garments which adapt to your needs during exercise. Zaha Hadid Design’s clothing range of tops and leggings work with seamless knit technology and organic body mapping to control the flow of air around and adapt to the wearer’s breathing patterns and movement. While Allbirds is a carbon-neutral business quietly disrupting the £50 billion performance shoe industry by making products without petroleum-derived synthetics. The San Francisco based brand’s latest Dasher running shoe is made of entirely natural materials including sugarcane and tree fibres. Traditionally at the vanguard of progress, even the automotive world is learning from the sportswear industry for seating design and interior materials.

Swedish car brand Polestar's recycled cork vinyl material

Crucially, our data will continue to play a key role in the future of health and wellness. Big Tech has already caught onto ways to entice consumers to monetise their health. The Apple Health app, for instance, helps you pool your health data in one place so you can track your wellbeing, monitor your medications and arrange appointments and procedures. Then, Blockchain technology takes this autonomy a step further by providing new opportunities for peer-to-peer services with possibilities to own your data – with all kinds of implications, not all positive.

This is just a snapshot of what may be driving future trends in health and wellness. Technology moves fast as does consumer behaviour, but one thing seems clear: our obsession with fitness, with health and with finding a more balanced life will continue to advance. ‘Research, data, and distributive technologies will continue to provide opportunities, but this is only the start,’ says Leigh Banks, Spinach Branding director. ‘Creative thinking will remain an essential bridge between insight and effective strategies. As ever, successful businesses like Cowshed, know this well.’

Take a look at our work with Cowshed and contact us to discuss your brand. Images from top: Cowshed at Babington House and products with new branding by Spinach, FORME Life by Yves Bahar (c) Peter Belanger for fuseproject. Allbirds sustainable activewear collection, Polestar’s recycled cork vinyl seats learn from sportswear, illustration on Cowshed products.

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