The wellness industry is vast – it was estimated to be worth around £1.3 trillion in 2020 alone. But it’s not done growing, and that makes it one of the most compelling sectors in which to launch a new business this year.
Wellness is built on helping others feel better both physically and mentally. Certainly, after a troubling couple of years, a bit of wellness would do any of us some good. Lockdowns and tier restrictions have left us all feeling glum, trapped indoors, and out of shape. In fact, according to the government’s personal wellbeing survey, the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK saw average ratings of life satisfaction fall by 1.8%.
There is a very real need for wellbeing products and services that can help cheer up consumer spirits and get people moving again. And, if that sounds like something you’re passionate about, this is definitely the industry for you.
But where are the best opportunities? Where can you make the biggest impact and stand out from your competitors? Our guide will take you through the most exciting and original wellbeing business ideas for 2022.
After months of working from home, and endless hours spent in front of the computer screen, the nation is officially Zoomed-out.
Mind’s report into the impact of coronavirus on mental health found that 75% of respondents said spending time outside was their most popular coping mechanism for the past year – and this newfound love of nature isn’t going away.
Moving away from our computers and getting back to hands-on outdoor experiences is a key trend for 2022, as holidays and travel once again become possible and we wave goodbye to virtual meetings and events.
One popular business idea that’s popping up as a result of this new demand is the revamped wellbeing retreat. It can involve everything from spa and massage experiences, to mindful yoga and meditation, to fun-filled alternative activities like kayaking – whatever you’re offering, this is a business idea that really lets your passion shine through.
“Even before COVID, wellness travel had been growing at twice the speed of the rest of the travel sector, and we believe it will grow even faster now,” says George Burgess, co-founder of the startup Basubu. Basubu is a yoga retreat marketplace helping people recover from the stress and anxiety created by the pandemic.
Burgess is optimistic about post-COVID recovery, and plans to expand Basubu services to more exciting locations: “International travel should [soon] become more normalised. This means we can provide visitors with broader options, whether that be yoga in the Ibizan sun or trekking and meditation in the Himalayas.”
In addition to this growing consumer base, there’s been a surge in public demand for more action on climate change, and greater protection of the planet’s natural resources. Capitalising on the trend is the Real Wild Estates Company, a startup that acquires UK land to rewild and restore biodiversity.
Big impact ideas such as this might seem like they require large initial investment to get up and running. But you can also take advantage of consumer pressure to get big backing from socially-responsible companies.
For example, cosmetic empire L’Oréal has an equity stake in Real Wild Estates – and is funding the startup as part of its €50m (£42.5m) Fund for Nature Regeneration. Feeling green-eyed? We’ve unearthed some other gold-winning business ideas below.
Guided tours with a twist
Urban dwellers are looking for fun experiences away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, where they can experience the English countryside. You could host a Bridgerton-esque country house crawl, or tap into the growing sustainability trend and take an ethical beekeeping tour.
Gardening has had a huge resurgence as consumers search for a digital detox to get their hands dirty off-screen. You could offer some in-person or virtual teaching sessions to those both with and without their own green space. Corporate activity days can be a particularly big money-spinner here.
First things first – we know nutritional science is not a new business idea. Diet shakes, fakes, and low-cal bakes have populated supermarket shelves for donkey’s years.
But the body positivity movement has meant that the wellbeing diet industry is moving away from pills and supplements that can make you look good. Instead, the focus has shifted towards using scientifically-backed data to manufacture products that help you to feel, and live, better.
Naturally, more consumers are looking for products that can boost virus resistance as COVID-19 has led to increased awareness around the importance of the immune system.
However, the general push among consumers is for products that can be tailored to more specific and personal ailments as, culturally, we begin to celebrate diversity and individuality.
“The entire wellness sector will become more specialised [in 2022]. Diets will focus less on restriction and push a more rounded approach. There is bigger respect for individualism and individual needs now, and customers want tailored options.”
–Julie Scheurl, Key Account Manager at Alphagreen Group
In 2021, 41% of UK customers said they use vitamins and dietary supplement products daily (up from 33%). Savvy entrepreneurs have acted swiftly, leveraging this emerging customer need to provide smart new wellness solutions. Some have even combined with other trends, such as sustainable eating, to produce supplements suitable for specialist diets like veganism.
“There’s increasing demand for proper science – and not just a nice-looking brand that’s lacking in substance. Rightfully, consumers are becoming more discerning about what they are willing to spend their money on. That reflects not just an evolution in consumer sophistication, but it mirrors that journey of wellbeing from lifestyle to essential.”
–Tim Samuels founded Karmacist in late 2021. Using nutrigenomics research, Karmacist tells customers what supplements to take based on their unique genetic makeup
Other new faces in the industry include Marcus Mollinga and Jack Morrison, who founded YourZooki in 2017.
YourZooki’s capsules use something called ‘liposomal delivery’, a patented ‘nano-encapsulation’ technology that the brand claims increases product bioavailability to improve the absorption of vitamins within the body.
YourZooki’s wide range of products covers lots of wellbeing improvements, including immunity booster packs, which are all available in tasty, on-the-go soft gel sachets. Last year, we ranked it 33rd in our index of the top 100 Startups in the UK, thanks to its impressive and disruptive ideas.
Dropshipping is an easy business to start as it means relatively few overheads and is very scalable. You don’t need to handle any supplements yourself – you just need to make the sales and pass orders on to your supplier. To strengthen your consumer base, you could also offer regular prescription-style delivery services.
This is a fairly simple business idea but it has lots of different applications. You could work with consumers or businesses to provide scientific diet advice for personal clients or employees.
According to research conducted by FormulateHealth, 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep at least one night per week.
This might have previously been accepted as a symptom of full-time work. But the days of wearing sleep deprivation like a badge of honour are now behind us. New ways of working in 2022 mean we are prioritising good work-life balance, and consumers want the ability to switch off from work to get a good night’s rest instead.
As a consequence of this behaviour change, interest in businesses that help to improve sleep has piqued. The Better Sleep Company’s 2021 survey found that 79% of consumers believe sleep is the most important factor for good health and wellbeing.
So where are the new business ideas emerging?
Sleep tracking apps have been a steadily growing market over the past few years, but we’re now starting to see other businesses enter the space in new and innovative ways. For example, there’s the data-supported handheld device for people with insomnia called SleepCogni, which raised £500k in funding earlier this year.
Sleep consultancies are also emerging in this space. These are businesses that take on clients or visit companies to explain the dos and don’ts of sleeping, such as monitoring caffeine intake and restricting LED screen usage.
“Demand for sleep help has ballooned since the pandemic began, triggered or worsened by the stress of threats to health and financial stability, increased use of screens, changes in routine and blurred boundaries between work and home.
“I started my business to provide accessible, evidence-based sleep training to help optimise performance. The approach with the strongest evidence is cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). As awareness and acceptance of digital medicines grows, I’d expect to see CBT-I being included in more online programmes.”
–Sophie Bostock, PhD, sleep expert consultant and founder of TheSleepScientist.com
This dreamy sector might require a little more niche thinking, but we also think it’s where many entrepreneurs will make themselves comfortable in 2022.
There’s a large product market for people who struggle to sleep. Weighted blankets and specially-designed pillows are some of the solutions the market has come up with – but there are other areas of product development that can be tapped into, including massager pillows and smart beds.
Research carried out by the University of Cambridge found that more than one in three adults (36%) had increased their alcohol consumption during the first national lockdown.
As a pushback to this increased alcohol intake, many new businesses have emerged in the market to promote healthy and happy relationships with alcohol, in a new trend that’s been labelled by some as ‘mindful drinking’.
There’s certainly a market for it. AlcoholChange reported that 6.5 million people planned to do Dry January in 2021, compared to 3.9 million in 2020. So-called ‘sober-curious’ consumers are taking up a large space at the table – and their demand is driving impressive innovations in the sector.
For example, the ‘nolo’ (no- or low-alcohol) startup CleanCo, which recently secured almost £6m in funding, promotes what it describes as ‘hangover-free’ drinking through its delicious non-alcoholic spirits.
There’s also apps like DrinkControl, which can be set up to track your consumption. Others, like community forum Monument, give support and encouragement to those who are trying to reduce their dependence on alcohol.
All of these apps allow users to become more aware of how much they are drinking, and work to minimise negative health effects such as hangovers.
Virtual and physical cocktail classes have become a common leisure activity, but few offer specifically alcohol-free sessions. In line with the demand amongst firms for more inclusive workforces, this could be a winner for anyone with hospitality or bartending experience. Anyone for a virgin margarita?
Sober event planning
The event planning business is becoming increasingly diverse, offering experiences for everyone to get involved. If you want to make your mark in the space, consider the specialist area of alcohol-free parties, weddings, and galas.
Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, looking after our health and immune system has become today’s new zeitgeist.
But don’t feel you need a degree in health sciences to succeed in this sector. Running a wellbeing business is really all about translating your positivity and enthusiasm into your service or product offering, so you can help consumers feel happier and healthier with themselves.
Helena “Len” Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.
Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.
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