Issue No. 171: The State of Supplements

Illustration: Courtney Powell

Around the start of the pandemic, we covered the surge in demand for supplements. Two years in, and on track to top $505B by 2028, the category shows no signs of slowing down.

Supp Central

A pressing issue, poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of illnesses in the US, killing over 500K people a year. At first glance, supplements seem like a much-needed solution, but questions related to what works and what’s necessary remain.

Though well-meaning, most vitamin-packed blends, smoothies, or chews can’t match the benefits of eating nutrient-rich foods.

Still… whether it’s a salve for the mind or to counterbalance a bad diet, supplements are wildly popular. As competition grows, new categories are taking shape.

Consumable wellness. A form of nutritional insurance, daily nutritional cocktails are catching on. After hiring Kat Cole to pilot its “wellness rocket ship,” in January, nutrition supplement maker Athletic Greens picked up $115M to reach a $1.5B valuation.

Meanwhile, plant-based nutrition startup Kencko has been growing 500% YoY and just bagged a $10M Series A.

Au naturel. 41% of consumers say they would choose a natural, clean product over one that was more effective. Raising the bar, startups like Feel, GEM, and Hilma want to clean up the synthetic fillers and artificial ingredients found in many supplements.

Pretty pills. Ingestible beauty supplements have exploded in popularity, on track to hit $8.3B by 2030.

  • Moon Juice boasts “plant-sourced alchemy,” aka adaptogen blends for skin and hair; it recently notched a $7M investment.
  • Enhancing mind, body, and skin, The Nue Co. raised $25M last year to fund global expansion and also partnered with Sephora.
  • Apothékary, a plant-based supplement maker rooted in herbal and Ayurvedic medicine, closed a $3.5M seed round last November.

Brain boosters. Appealing to the mind, supplements promising boosts in cognition and mental wellness are on the rise. In April 2021, Unilever acquired Onnit, maker of popular Alpha BRAIN nootropic.

In January, Heights raised $2M for its subscription plant-based braincare supplements. This February, hims & hers launched a line of mental wellness supplements targeting sleep, stress, and focus, while BRAINLUXURY secured $8.1M for its brain wave-optimizing pills.

Precision nutrition. Getting personal, supplement makers are using everything from questionnaires to DNA to customize ingredients.

Last year, Gainful raised $7.5M for personalized nutritional powders. Elsewhere, RootineCOR, and Vessel use biomarkers to recommend and dial in dosages. The latest, Elo nabbed $5M for its supplement formulas determined by blood tests and health data.

Going B2B, OK Capsule offers white-label supplement personalization.

Multivitamin M&A

With an appetite for poppable wellness, Big Food and CPG giants are formulating their own healthier portfolios.

  • Nestlé is all-in on nutrition, securing a majority stake in plant-based nutrition maker Orgain this February; it also commands core brands from The Bountiful Company, and ownership of personalized nutrition startup Persona, collagen protein maker Vitamin Proteins, and hydration startup nuun.
  • Bayer paid $225M in 2020 to acquire personalized vitamin company Care/of.
  • In addition to Onnit, Unilever has made acquisitions of Liquid I.V., OLLY, and SmartyPants Vitamins.
  • Last April, Procter & Gamble scooped up Australian effervescent supplement maker Voost.

Takeaway: The case for more supplements might be shaky, but demand isn’t slowing. Of the bunch, precision nutrition is poised to take off, especially as the push for personalization builds.

💪 The Connected Rowing Update

It has been over two years (and 121 episodes) since we chatted with Hydrow CEO Bruce Smith — and so much has happened. From a pandemic reckoning to our present reality, it’s time to circle back.

On the Fitt Insider Podcast: Bruce explains how the company’s connected rowing machine achieved sustainable growth through content and partnerships.

We also cover: celebrity endorsements, IPO rumors, retail sales, and his post-pandemic gameplan.

Listen to today’s episode here.

🛍 Wellness Retail

Eyeing expansion, massage gun maker Therabody is opening hybrid recovery and retail stores.

R&R. Dubbed Reset, the latest location is opening in LA’s Brentwood neighborhood, joining its first location in Philly. With $13M directed toward brick-and-mortar rollout efforts, Resets in Manhattan Beach, New York, Chicago, and Houston will open this year.

In addition to stocking products in 10K retailers across 60 countries, Therabody’s experiential stores offer services for performance, immunity, stress relief, and more:

  • Theragun massages, PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy, cryotherapy, sound therapy, light therapy, and IV drips
  • Full selection of Therabody and PowerDot products available for purchase

A strategic move, the concept allows consumers to test-drive products while tapping into the growing demand for recovery-centric services à la Restore Hyper Wellness, Pause, Remedy Place, and others.

The new storefront. Therabody isn’t alone in leveraging IRL activations. Experiential retail has become an essential part of the playbook for fitness and wellness brands.

  • Alo Yoga is expanding its retail efforts, leaning into music, entertainment, and wellness education.
  • Prioritizing community over sales, UK-based Gymshark is readying its first brick-and-mortar location.
  • Connected fitness brands, from Tonal and CLMBR to MIRROR and Hydrow, are relying on retail partnerships to reach potential customers.

Punchline: As customer acquisition costs soar and competition intensifies, everyone is rethinking distribution. From pop-ups to partnerships and permanent locations, chances are your favorite health and fitness brand is coming to a store near you.

💥 Workout Wars

Australian-born HIIT studios F45 Training and Body Fit Training (BFT) have been locked in a legal battle.

The latest: Australian courts ruled in favor of BFT, tossing out F45’s suit as overly broad and invalid. The crux of the lawsuit, both studios utilize video screens and content to augment on-site instructors. While F45 claimed it patented the tech behind this delivery system, the courts disagreed.

Of note, F45 also sued BFT in a Delaware court in 2020. The case remains ongoing.

Why it matters: Filed four years ago, the stakes of this lawsuit ratcheted up when Xponential Fitness paid $44M to acquire BFT in October 2021. Now, the legal victory paves the way for Xponential to ramp up its newly purchased HIIT concept.

  • XPOF. Owner of 10 fitness concepts totaling 2K open locations, Xponential went public last year, aggressively pursuing global expansion.
  • FXLV. Mark Wahlberg-backed F45 also IPO’d last year, debuting Pilates-focused FS8, acquiring Vive Active, and scooping up Flywheel’s cycling IP.

Looking ahead: Much like the patent wars in connected fitness, boutique operators are fending off competitors. Despite the legal win, BFT will encounter new challenges in the States, moving into territory already dominated by F45 and Orangetheory Fitness.

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👌 Embracing Omnichannel

Equinox is touting digital workouts even as gym visits bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

Warm-up. Equinox has 100 luxury health clubs globally and owns SoulCycle, Blink Fitness, and Equinox Hotels. In 2020, as gyms shuttered, the company’s losses topped $350M.

Accelerating its digital efforts, including Equinox+ and the SoulCycle at-home bike, Equinox landed an investment from private equity firm Silver Lake in early 2020.

Work out. According to Equinox president Scott DeRue, its omnichannel efforts are paying off, adding“Our business today is stronger than it’s been at any point since March of 2020.”

  • Weekly check-in volume at gyms is the highest it has been since COVID started.
  • Over the last eight months, Equinox’s sales outperformed the same period in 2019.
  • 30% of Equinox+ digital content is streamed while attending one of its clubs.

IPO? Last year, rumors of a public offering via SPAC merger swirled, but DeRue said Equinox has no plans to pursue a SPAC at this time.

Looking ahead: As the fitness industry tries to find its footing, it’s becoming increasingly clear that consumers prefer a combination of digital and IRL exercise. Moving toward a hybrid future, add Equinox to the list of operators who hope to provide the best of both worlds.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • Cann, makers of cannabis-infused tonic water, closed $27M in a Series A round and will enter Canada.
    More from Fitt Insider: Sipping on Stress Relief
  • Digital psychiatry startup Minded added $25M in seed funding to expand its telehealth platform.
  • Plant-based nutrition brand KOS, makers of functional drink mixes, raised $12M in Series A funding.
  • Asian-inspired sparkling water brand Sanzo landed $10M in a Series A financing round led by CircleUp Growth Partners.
    More from Fitt Insider: Better-for-you Beverages
  • Health technology company Bodymatter raised ~$3M in seed funding for SleepWatch, a personalized sleep improvement program.
  • BRAINLUXURY, a brain health supplement improving sleep quality, secured $8.1M in a seed round led by True Ventures.
  • Kodiak, known for its better-for-you pancake mixes, secured strategic funding from Patricof Co (P/Co), an investment platform for athletes like Joe BurrowSloane Stephens, and others.
  • Couples therapy app Lovewick secured $1M in a pre-seed round led by Corazon Capital.
  • MindFi, a mental fitness app serving the Asia-Pacific market, raised $2M in seed funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Mental Health Gym
  • Food-for-health platform NourishedRx raised $6M in seed funding for its AI-enabled, healthcare-sponsored meal service.
  • Equip, a telehealth platform for eating disorder treatment, landed $58M in a Series B round led by The Chernin Group, with participation from Tiger GlobalGeneral Catalyst, and others.
  • Fluence, a digital educational training platform for psychedelic therapy, raised $3M in a seed round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Psychedelic Wellness
  • UK-based ExSeed Health, makers of a men’s at-home fertility test, added €2.9M ($3.29M) in seed funding.
  • Indian men’s health startup Bold Care raised undisclosed pre-Series A funding and will expand overseas.
  • Everything Legendary, maker of frozen plant-based burger patties, raised $6M in Series A funding led by CircleUp Growth Partners, with participation from General Mills and others.
  • UK-based SPOKE, a platform curating music as therapy, raised £1.1M ($1.5M) in pre-seed funding.
  • Women’s health upstart HerMD raised $10M in a Series A funding round led by JAZZ Venture Partners.
  • Reproductive health company SimpleHealth acquired Emme, a healthtech company focused on solutions for birth control, for an undisclosed sum.
    More from Fitt Insider: Women’s Health Revolution
  • Membership software company Clubessential Holdings acquired myFitApp developer Innovatise, a business management platform for gyms and fitness studios.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony and Joe Vennare, Ryan Deer, Melody Song, and Wesley Yen.

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