Issue No. 270: Heat Check

This issue is presented by

The future of proactive, personalized care has arrived.

Seed oils are sowing division.

Cooking Trouble

Growing distrust of America’s food system is fueling skepticism, with numerous studies linking ultra-processed foods to illness.

Compelled to act where regulators won’t, consumers are blacklisting seed oils.

Kernel of evidence. Detractors warn seed oils—canola, corn, cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, and rice bran—are heavily processed and often washed with harmful chemicals.

Widely used by Big Food, some experts are raising red flags.

  • In high heat, partially hydrogenated fatty acids in seed oils can be converted to trans fats, linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death.
  • Consuming seed oils high in omega-6 fatty acids without adequate omega-3s causes chronic inflammation linked to autoimmune diseases and some cancers.
  • Soybean oil consumption is linked to obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, and gut issues.

Devil’s advocate. Not everyone is canceling canola.

Harvard scientists deem home use safe, citing omega-6s’ ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Others reframe correlation, noting the problem isn’t seed oils but ultra-processed diets.

Fueling debate, science influencers are split. Peter Attia sides with paleo dieters, Rhonda Patrick argues anti-seed oil rhetoric is reductive, and Andrew Huberman says there’s no proof they’re poison — but suggests avoiding them.

Choosing to trust personal anecdotes over corporate-funded studies, many consumers are out on seed oils.

Seeds of Doubt

Vegetable oil is big business.

Since 2007, global production has grown up to 7% YoY. Palm oil, used in ~50% of packaged food and 70% of cosmetics, is a $93B industry.

However, oil counterculture is making waves.

Targeting the $11B global paleo foods market, Kraft Heinz purchased athlete-influencer Mark Sisson’s avocado oil-based condiment brand Primal Kitchen for $200M in 2019.

Oil change. Catering to consumer demand, health-minded restaurants Sweetgreen and True Food Kitchen 86ed seed oils, while Shake Shack and Hopdoddy adopted a sugarcane alternative.

Cashing in on the classics, longevity biohacker Bryan Johnson sells specialty olive oil, and Shayna’s Kitchen debuted “medicinal-grade” EVOO.

Future fats. Innovating to preserve human and planetary health, companies are introducing a new option: cultured oil.

  • Zero Acre Farms, maker of fermented oils, has raised $40M+, including from Chipotle.
  • Bill Gates-backed C16 Bioscience just raised $4.5M, expanding its palm oil alternative to food applications.
  • Last year, Sun Bear Bioworks secured pre-seed funding and research grants for its yeast-based palm oil analog.

Tweaking the formula, Algae Cooking Club, made with its namesake ingredient, just launched, and CUBIQ FOODS’ “smart fat” is backed by Cargill.

Looking ahead: Once minds are made up, expanding research is a moot point. Like debates around gluten, processed food, and aspartame, a seed of doubt has been planted — and for many, there’s no going back.

🎙 On the Podcast

Nick West, Co-founder & CEO of Bandit on the Fitt Insider podcast

Bandit co-founder and CEO Nick West discusses the brand’s cultish success.

Born in NYC, Bandit makes apparel for runners, by runners. Leveraging pop-ups, run clubs, and content, the company earned a reputation as “the world’s most authentic, community-driven running brand.”

We also cover: Bandit’s mission to evolve running, fundraising in a crowded space, and building consumer loyalty.

Listen to today’s episode here.

👟 lululemon doubles down on footwear

Two years after launching its women’s shoe, the apparel maker is adding men’s — dropping a casual sneaker next week, followed by running models in coming months.

Chasing a $12.5B revenue goal by 2026, lulu’s experiments in skincare and connected fitness didn’t stick, but more footwear is in its future.

Industry vets. As upstarts crowd in, incumbents are working to maintain their stronghold. For lulu’s part, it’s doubling men’s sales while expanding hiking, tennis, and golf.

Meanwhile, Nike’s North American sales slumped after an attempted DTC pivot. Now, it’s cutting $2B in costs, re-upping wholesale contracts, and reorienting around holistic wellness.

Speaking to subcultures, newcomers are shifting the landscape.

  • All in on high fashion, Alo’s sales are $1B+.
  • Selling sustainable running, On’s revenue neared $2B last year.
  • Merging nutrition and fitness, Tom Brady x NOBULL are plotting an empire.

Meanwhile, HOKA, Tracksmith, and Satisfy are dominating specialty running — forcing apparel giants to adapt.

Punchline: Beyond premium products, consumers expect brands to deliver on culture. Tapping new niches, lulu and Nike hope to reinforce who they’re for… even if that’s everyone.

Presented by Lifeforce

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Don’t settle for feeling average; measure your baseline today.

🏓 Padel Haus pushes nationwide expansion

The members-only padel club is adding locations in Brooklyn and Nashville as it scales up.

Clubbing. Set to open this summer, the Nashville outpost will be its largest to date and first outside of New York — featuring eight courts, a kid’s playground, coworking space, climbing wall, and social lounges.

Riding a $7.5M raise last year, a third NYC location is in the works, with CEO Santiago Gomez eyeing as many as 50 clubs within five years.

Full swing. Benefiting from a racket sports boom, padel is going head to head with pickleball and tennis.

With the US padel market expected to reach 30K courts and 8M players by 2030, clubs are building the infrastructure to keep pace.

  • Luxury operator Reserve Padel is hosting a Miami tournament this week.
  • Park Padel is teaming with SF for public pop-up courts before its spring opening.
  • Miami’s Ultra Club and Raleigh’s Swing Racquet + Paddle offer padel alongside other racket sports.

Meanwhile, overseas court operators are scaling up and serving software solutions.

Punchline: Delivering physical, social, and networking benefits, padel courts are becoming watering holes for the wealthy and wellness-minded.

📰 News & Notes

  • Peloton ends college initiative, misses growth goals.
  • Zwift enacts further layoffs, co-CEO Kurt Biedler exits.
  • Oura rolls out Resilience, quantifying and coaching stress.
  • Kombucha leader Health-Ade unveils prebiotic soda SunSip.
  • TRX cuts the ribbon on its global HQ in Delray Beach, Florida.
  • Hyperice teases forthcoming performance apparel collection.
  • Startup Q&A: Aviron CEO Andy Hoang on fitness entertainment.
  • IWBI launches WELL healthy building certification for residential homes.
  • Precision Nutrition publishes report analyzing the fitness industry’s top coaches.
  • Mark Wahlberg doubles down on F45, partnering to open his own Boston studios.
  • Elon Musk’s Neuralink implants first chip in human brain. [Re-read: Brain Tech Startups]
  • Featured roles: Top health and fitness companies are hiring a VP of Sales and VP of Information Security. Discover more openings at Fitt Jobs.

💰 Money Moves

  • Frasers Group acquired UK-based experiential training retailer WIT Fitness.
  • Food-as-medicine provider Foodsmart added $10M in a Series C extension round.
  • Perelel, a hormonal health-focused supplement brand for women, raised $6M in a Series A round led by Unilever Ventures.
  • Outdoor gear brand YETI acquired durable outdoors backpack manufacturer MYSTERY RANCH.
  • Hard kombucha brand JuneShine received a seven-figure investment from PE firm InvestBev.
  • SaaS company Xplor Technologies acquired gym management platform Membr.
  • VR sports gaming platform StatusPRO closed a $20M Series A round led by GV (Google Ventures).
  • E-comm operator Forum Brands acquired organic period care company LOLA.
  • Indoor pickleball facility The Picklr received an undisclosed investment from ex-NFLer Drew Brees, who also joins as ambassador and franchisee.
  • Online NA beverage retailer The Zero Proof raised an undisclosed amount in a Series A round led by Asahi Group Beverages & Innovation.
  • Fresh meal distributor FreshRealm acquired meal kit company Marley Spoon’s US-based assets for $24M.
  • Banquet Health, a nutrition management platform for hospitals, added $4.5M in a new funding round.
  • Insomnia management app Stellar Sleep secured $6M in a seed round led by Initialized Capital, with participation from Y Combinator.
  • Sustainable water brand ZenWTR added an undisclosed investment from NFLer Maxx Crosby.
  • Neurotech company Elemind, maker of a brain stimulation wearable, closed a $12M seed round.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, Ryan Deer, and Jasmina Breen. 

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