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The concept of well-being and the rise of wellness industry

Imtiaz Ahmed | November 26, 2023 00:00:00

he concept of well-being is closely linked to health and wellness. Well-being is not just about physical health, rather it is a combination of multiple factors, including emotional, social, and mental health. It is an expression of how good we feel about our life. Health cannot be achieved without well-being, and well-being relies on wellness.

It was not a long time ago when wellness was thought of just as exercise and stuff. But this concept changed to a great extent in the past decade. Like well-being, wellness is not considered as encapsulating all aspects of health. The industry has also expanded beyond supplements and minerals to a plethora of services and products.

But how can we define wellness? According to the definition of the US-based National Institute of Wellness, "Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence." In short, wellness is adopting a holistic approach toward physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. This includes incorporating positive lifestyle choices to proactively take control of health.

From a consumer or customer perspective, wellness fits into a care continuum. At one end we have the curative care offered by medical experts and at the other end we have preventive approaches. Wellness can fit somewhere in between. Consumers see it as a mix of the following things:

• Better health: This was probably the most traditional part of wellness. It covers supplements, and consumer health devices, e.g., health trackers, apps, etc.

• Better fitness: During the Covid-19 pandemic people's ability to go to gym or play sports was quite limited. That drives the popularity of personal fitness equipment. There are several key players in this market, e.g., Tonal and Peloton. Definitely not everyone can afford the personalised equipment. However, the segment has shown good growth during the pandemic.

• Better nutrition: This is related to better health. In addition, there are a good number of nutrition apps and diet programmes offer subscription food services in this sector.

• Better sleep: This incorporates sleep apps, designed to facilitate falling into sleep. Physical devices, e.g., blackout curtains are also a part of this.

• Better appearance: This sector is getting a lot of traction these days, especially in terms of athleisure, which is a type of clothing that can be worn for workout as well as in a casual setting. Workleisure is part of that, which is workout clothing that can seamlessly transition to workplace attire. Several brands have invested in these, e.g., Athleta, Lululemon, Carbon38.

• Better mindfulness:The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated how crucial it was to keep our mind healthy. That is why meditation and relaxation techniques are so important. Yoga has become very popular in this regard. In addition, there are apps to help with meditation, like Calm, Headspace, etc. Travaasa and Soothe offer relaxation solutions.

So how is the wellness market doing? Global Wellness Institute (GWI) in their 2021 report showed a yearly average growth rate of 9.9 per cent. According to McKinsey & Company, currently the global market size is about US$ 1.5 trillion. Diet, nutrition, and weight reduction segments are the biggest revenue generators. Based on GWI's statistics, this can shoot up to US$7 trillion by 2025. Such a growth sprout could be attributed to the pandemic. While the concept of wellness has been circulating for a long time, it is mostly during pandemics that the majority of people start to focus on building positive lifestyle habits. Many start to adopt a balanced diet, doing yoga, and exercise to reduce stress. Another strong growth surge has been reported in mental health, especially in terms of mindfulness and meditation.

People worldwide are now spending a substantial portion of their income on many wellness products. Based on a survey by McKinsey & Company of 7,500 consumers from six countries, 79 per cent of respondents identified wellness as important, and it was the top priority for 42 per cent of them. So, the wellness industry is definitely on the rise. Modern customers are sensitive about the products they use, and search more and more for natural and eco-friendly ones. While they still go to traditional business channels, a growing population is relying on online medium for product selection and purchase.

Science is also playing a key role here, especially in terms of generating and interpreting data relating to wellness. There are start-ups and established businesses trying to pull in a clientele who value comfort and convenience in obtaining their health information. Various options are available, many of which are linked to healthcare professionals so that they can advise making necessary lifestyle adjustments, if necessary.

Things like Inside Tracker, WellnessFx, etc. use biomarkers and offer nutrition and lifestyle insights for us. Devices, such as Tasso and OneDrwa are making home blood sample collection very easy and painless. These samples can be tested in commercial labs for important health parameters. Physicians can use that info to provide effective intervention. Genetic testing has also become popular with many firms providing that service. These are all part of the wellness industry, aiming to extend the years of good health a person can enjoy.

An important part of the wellness industry is the wearable devices. They can be a source of constant monitoring by accumulating critical health data. Apple watch and Fitbit are two examples. These can collect and store information on our daily activities, e.g., walking, running, sleep, pulse rate. Devices like FreeStyle Libre or Dexcom go one step further and measure our blood glucose continuously. Hence, these are very useful for diabetics. The medical industry has taken notice and is working to develop devices implantable under the skin.

There are several contemporary trends in the wellness industry that businesses should be aware of. These trends have the potential to affect everyone, from traditional players with a traditional business model to dynamic startups.

One thing that has already been mentioned above is that customers are keen on products from natural sources, and many are concerned with their environmental impact. This is especially true for beauty products, such as cosmetics and skincare. Vitamins, supplements, and subscription food services are also affected. Therefore, companies offering these products need to address this in their offering, and prospective brands need to incorporate a natural and environment-friendly line.

The second trend is also something we briefly touched. It is the rise of online platforms for product sales. Specific segments, such as multivitamins, skincare, and food supplements are still dominated by traditional models. However, for everything else digital marketplaces are rapidly catching up. Businesses must diversify their marketing and supply channels, offering omnichannel solutions for customers.

The power of social influencers is another growing trend. How many of us have bought a product just because we saw a favourite celebrity endorsing it? I bet there are quite a few. In today's digital world, social influencers are celebrities. They can make up our shopping list. Any business must be aware of that. Partnering with an influencer who fits the characteristics of a particular brand is a great approach to resonate with the target customers.

Wellness is not only thought of from the product perspective, but customers also view services as part of it as well. This trend is growing, expanding the wellness space. Services like nutritionists, personal trainers, counselling, etc. have become an enhancement for people who can afford them. Consumer businesses should learn from that and offer one-stop solutions to their customers where they can choose the service they want to use.

The future of the wellness industry looks bright. GWI identifies 11 sections of wellness which are expected to experience an astounding 10 per cent growth by 2025, well above the market average. These include wellness tourism, wellness real estate, wellness springs, spa, workplace wellness, mental wellness, physical activity, personal care, and beauty, nutrition, diet, weight loss, traditional and complementary medicine, public health prevention and personalised medicine. Discussing each and every one is beyond the scope of this write-up. However, we can definitely highlight wellness tourism as something that is increasingly becoming popular worldwide, including in our country. Wellness tourism is not a pleasure trip, rather it is completely proactive, voluntary and non-medical to help improve our well-being. Many places are now offering wellness tourism. Selection of the right one depends on the climate and services offered.

Many big corporations are already investing in the wellness sector. For example, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, PepsiCo have acquired healthy snacking options. P&G and Unilever are promoting natural and organic beauty care products. In terms of the business, North America is currently ahead. However, the Asia Pacific offers the most lucrative opportunity. With its huge population, rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and economic growth, the Asia Pacific offers the next big thing for businesses.

In Bangladesh, the wellness market is nascent. We have some multinational brands offering product lines, and local chains with specific services. But there is still no concerted effort to turn it into a phenomenon that is visible worldwide. This will need a good deal of planning and investment. But this is certainly a business worth exploring.

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