Issue No. 273: Freshen Up

Presented by

Improving revenue and retention for wellness businesses.

Food as medicine is on the menu.

Buy In

Gaining traction, food as medicine leverages dietary choices to prevent, manage, or reverse chronic diseases.

An antidote to sickcare, its potential can’t be ignored.

  • Poor diet increases mortality risk, causing 678K+ US deaths each year.
  • 48M households include someone with a chronic disease manageable through diet.
  • Medically tailored meal coverage would save $185B in healthcare costs over 10 years.

Leaning in, the White House pledged $9.7B to food-as-medicine programs. But, widespread adoption faces a tough reality: junk food is cheap, tasty, and easy to come by.

Food for Thought

The recipe for change is simple: Fresh food is better than processed. But, as author and environmentalist Wendell Berry noted decades ago, we’re stuck in a harmful cycle:

“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”

No better today, medical students receive almost no nutrition education while US food manufacturers profit by producing “cheap calories in great abundance”.

Digging in. The basics of food as medicine are well-defined.

  • Medically tailored meals: dietitian-designed, ready-made options, often home-delivered
  • Medical foods: condition-specific products like infant formulas and nutritional shakes
  • Produce prescriptions: discounts or vouchers patients spend on fruits and veg

Funded by nonprofits, select insurance plans, or federal programs, acceptance of nutritional intervention is improving.

Still, solutions won’t break through until they’re widely available and adequately subsidized.

Next Course

To succeed, programs must be seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Public-private. Combining forces, the HHS is working with Instacart Health to expand food-as-med access, Uber teams with health plans to deliver prescribed groceries, and Thrive Market now accepts SNAP funds.

Health plan+. Taking advantage of extended coverage, Hungry Harvest bills Medicaid, Foodsmart has raised $115M while partnering with private health plans, and Season Health is scaling with support from hospitals and insurers.

Corporate cuisine. Selling employers, bitewell launched a digital food pharmacy benefit, AHARA’s algorithm makes tailored grocery lists, and Cigna linked with HelloFresh. Elsewhere, Virta prioritizes nutritional therapy over GLP-1s.

Shopping spree. Grocers are now health hubs, with Albertsons’ app rewarding lifestyle choices, Earth Fare testing DNA-based shopping lists, and Food Lion piloting a food pharmacy with Novant Health.

TBD. Food is medicine, but someone has to pay the bill. Stifled by red tape, upstarts must appease healthcare and government stakeholders while developing easy-to-use tech and quantifying impact.

No easy task, successfully building the infrastructure while aligning incentives paves the way for prescribed treatment and preventative lifestyle choices.

Looking ahead: Food as medicine won’t fix the food system or healthcare. But connecting produce to premiums, eating to outcomes, and netting savings for all will make it much more palatable.

🎙 On the Podcast

Dr. Daisy Robinton, Co-founder & CEO of Oviva Therapeutics

Oviva Therapeutics co-founder and CEO Dr. Daisy Robinton discusses the future of women’s health.

Daisy is a Harvard-trained molecular biologist on a mission to extend female healthspan. Aiming to make menopause optional, Oviva targets ovarian function as a lever for longevity.

We also cover: how lifestyle impacts aging, Oviva’s R&D process, and the intersection of biology and longevity.

Listen to today’s episode here.

🤝 FitLab acquires Assault Fitness, RPM Training

Elevating its equipment offering, FitLab’s integrated fitness platform is bulking up.

Who’s who. Assault is a leading manufacturer of self-powered bikes, treadmills, and rowers, while RPM supplies gear and apparel for functional training.

Perfect fit. FitLab develops and acquires brands, leveraging its ecosystem to deliver a range of fitness and wellness experiences.

  • After raising $15M in 2022, they closed a Series B investment last year.
  • Then, FitLab partnered with Nike to launch the apparel giant’s fitness studios.
  • Next, the company will debut the first XPT studio — a performance wellness center offering ice baths, sauna, and breathwork.

Adding to a portfolio that also includes Sanctuary Fitness, Racked, Electric, Ragnar, Fitplan, McGregor FAST, and Yoga Vida, FitLab will outfit its fitness studios with Assault equipment while gaining ground in CrossFit, commercial, and at-home markets.

Punchline: Putting the pieces together, FitLab believes its integrated flywheel will outperform siloed offerings. Serving the evolving preferences of fitness-seekers everywhere, its platform is expanding to keep pace.

Presented by Youll

📈 Improving Retention to Grow Revenue

Fitness studio, bathhouse, recovery center, supplement maker, health tech… you name it, Youll helps wellness brands launch a subscription-based app.

Developed by Headspace’s product and engineering squad, Youll’s no-code solution unlocks recurring revenue while boosting retention.

Purpose-built for wellness businesses, Youll is the easiest way to create an educational, content-driven digital experience.

Start now to increase earning potential by fostering deeper engagement and customer loyalty with users everywhere.

See transformative growth in just 30 days — book a demo here.

🚨 Teen nicotine use sparks debate

Gen Z is getting hooked on nicotine pouches, with sales increasing six-fold from 2019–22.

Social dilemma. Sold as a smoking alternative, pouches provide a nicotine fix without the harmful effects of tobacco. But, the long-term risks are understudied, fueling debate.

Some scientists say aside from increasing blood pressure, nicotine isn’t a health threat, and it may be a nootropic. Plus, pouch defendants argue they’re improving public health by reducing cigarette use.

A red flag, critics warn the stimulant alters developing brain circuits and triggers addiction in teens.

Quit club. Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the US, and quitting isn’t easy — making nicotine replacement therapy a $59.4B market.

Despite their messaging, pouches aren’t FDA-approved as a smoking cessation product, but other solutions are scaling.

  • With $1.1M in pre-seed funding, Jones debuted FDA-approved nicotine lozenges and a community-driven digital app.
  • B2B-focused Pelago (fka Quit Genius) has raised $78M for its virtual substance abuse clinic.
  • Behavior change platforms Ditch Labs and Pivot (fka Carrot) combine tech, coaching, and community to wean users off.

Punchline: Nicotine’s impact isn’t clear, but the dangers of teens soliciting health advice from influencers are. And, more artificial dopamine won’t bode well for mental health.

📰 News & Notes

  • Planet Fitness pilots new concepts, enters Spain.
  • BIOtimizers introduces PMS relief supplements rooted in TCM.
  • Equipment maker Precor taps BeaverFit for functional strength line.
  • The White House earmarks $100M to close women’s health research gap.
  • Equipment manufacturer BowFlex prepares for bankruptcy as losses grow.
  • Booking platform Xplor Mariana Tek awards 20 studios on innovation, growth.
  • Aktiv Solutions, Freemotion Fitness strike strategic product and distribution alliance.
  • Bluestein Ventures closes $45M; BFG Partners targets $125M for better-for-you food.
  • Woodway agrees to distribute CLMBR in B2B sales deal. [Re-read: FORME Buys CLMBR].
  • D1 Sports partners with PRIME on in-gym hydration. [On the Pod: D1’s Will Bartholomew]
  • Fitt Jobs: Top health and fitness companies are hiring. Join our free talent network to be considered for open roles. Hiring? Enlist our recruiters for your search.

💰 Money Moves

  • Mental health startup Matter Neuroscience emerged from stealth with $26M in funding and a happiness app in public beta.
  • Digital menopause care company Elektra Health secured a $3.3M seed extension led by UPMC Enterprises.
  • Power, a startup connecting diverse patients to clinical trials, raised $12M in a Series A round.
  • Social fitness app SweatPals raised $419K in a crowdfunding campaign.
  • CrewLAB, a team sports management platform, raised $1.6M in a funding round.
  • Dario Health, a chronic condition management platform, acquired digital wellness company Twill.
  • Youth mental health provider Blackbird Health raised $17M in a Series A round led by Define Ventures.
  • Virtual care management platform HealthSnap closed a $25M Series B round led by Sands Capital.
  • Tuned secured an oversubscribed $3.2M seed extension to scale employer-sponsored hearing health benefits.
  • Mayfair Capital Partners acquired North Dakota-based Planet Fitness franchisee Baseline Fitness.
  • She Matters, a digital health platform connecting Black women to culturally competent maternal care, secured $2M in a funding round.
  • HMB-infused beverage maker Nirvana Water Sciences secured $6M in new funding.
  • Food tech startup Rivalz collected $6.1M in a seed round to develop functional snacks.
  • Ema, developer of an AI women’s health assistant, raised nearly $2M in a bridge round.
  • FamilyWell Health secured $4.3M in a seed round to integrate maternal mental health care with OB/GYN practices.

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

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