In the last few years, there’s been a wellness revolution like nothing before. Formerly banished to the dark corners of health shops, or confined to mysterious celebrity regimes, new products aimed at supercharging your body and brain are exploding into the mainstream. We’ve entered the era of bone broth bars, mindfulness on your commute and exercises for muscles you never even new existed. Four healthy businesses funded by Virgin StartUp talk about why it’s never been a better time to start a health-focussed business.
Kris Ingham, Rejuvenation Water
Virgin StartUp loan amount: £7,500
Based in: London
We are the world's first amino acid-enriched spring water, specifically designed to deal with the rigours of modern life. The unique amino acids within Rejuvenation Water have been shown to fuel the immune system, build a natural resilience to stress, improve your mood and aid digestion, in particular the absorption of proteins in the body.
Our research showed that consumers are much more empowered than ever before. They no longer accept the typical health messaging from the big brands. Instead they do their own research, and this has led to much wider knowledge and demand. Consumers are always looking for new products to give them the edge, products that fit conveniently into their lifestyle. It seems now that consumers are often choosing artisan and independent products over the big brands, which has created a great opportunity for challengers.
With the introduction of the recently announced Sugar Tax – which we’re delighted to announce we’ll be exempt from - we feel the health sector will continue to experience rapid growth, with an emphasis on avoiding added sugar, not only in drinks but other food products. We also believe functional food and drinks will continue growing strongly as consumers seek shortcuts to maintain their ever-more-demanding lifestyle.
The future looks exciting for the health scene, and for us. We've attracted significant interest, both nationwide and abroad. Consumers will find us at the BBC Good Food show at the Excel in May and the Taste of London in Regent's Park in June.
Jaspreet Rai, Up Your Matcha
Virgin StartUp loan amount: £500
Based in: Derby
I started to take an interest in speciality teas due to the numerous health benefits of loose tea. Being a prescribing pharmacist I see hundreds of patients every week needing or wanting medication for the smallest and biggest reasons. For each man-made drug there's a list of side effects, and another drug to help stop those problems.
So I looked into the best superfoods around the world as an alternative, and I stumbled upon matcha. I was amazed. I bought in from other companies but wasn't impressed with the price, or sometimes the quality. So I decided it was time for me to bring Up Your Matcha to the world. With more people than ever looking for organic superfoods at a reasonable price, I couldn't see a better time. I wanted to bring inner health to those who want it, without the use of the drugs I dispense in my day job!
Our matcha is organic and sourced from the matcha capital Kyoto, Japan. Our matcha has the 137 times the potency of nutrients of regular green tea bags, and one serving is equivalent to ten cups of conventional green tea. Matcha helps to maintain a healthy metabolism, is a source of vitamin C, zinc and magnesium, and provides four to six hours of caffeine energy release. So there are no jitters like you get with coffee, plus you get the benefit of polyphenols and antioxidants!
Consumers are looking into what makes up their food and how it's processed more than ever before, and people are realising the importance of a nutrient-rich, varied diet. Healthy businesses are thriving because we’re giving the health-driven consumer a wide range of choice & accessibility – and the sector’s only going to grow bigger.
Luke Johnstone, Pack’d
Virgin StartUp loan amount: £25,000
Based in: London
I’ve always believed that good nutrition has the power to fuel the best performances. For me this is true in sport, work and daily life. As an aspiring athlete I took pride in what I consumed, but when I started full-time work I found it hard to keep this up.
Smoothies have the potential to be a great health hit, but I became so frustrated with the standard of bottled drinks and the hassle of homemade that I set out to create a solution. So I quit my job in 2013, teamed up with my friend Alex, and began working on the ultimate smoothie without the hassle.
Now we’re pioneering the world’s first frozen smoothie kits designed with nutritionists for a targeted health hit – you can choose from Energy, Defence, or Detox. They contain carefully selected fruits, vegetables and superfoods, in the precise hand-weighed amounts to give you maximum nutrition, and each flavour can be blended with your choice of liquid to suit your personal taste and health goals. We’ve just launched in Sainsbury’s nationwide and will soon hit the shelves in Tesco Express.
Over the last years, health has gone mainstream. We’re now more conscious of how we train, what we eat, and the lifestyle we live – the positive impacts of a healthy balance are now clear. Many factors underpin this, from health challenges we face as a society, to the availability of information. Some businesses are emerging armed with a passion and personal experience, whilst others may just see an opportunity to make money.
Small, healthy brands are the innovators, and big business is having to play catch-up. I believe corporate companies will want to jump on the bandwagon and get much more involved. I’m hoping to see a movement towards more honest social media, less pressure for unattainable expectations, and a focus on balanced health and authenticity.
Stuart Cain, The HITZone
Virgin StartUp loan amount: £7,400
Based in: Shropshire
HITZone is a boutique personal training studio, and we focus on workout quality, rather than quantity. The unique HIT Machines we utilise in our studio allow our members to train to a very high level of intensity regardless of their fitness level. By using heart rate monitors in all our sessions, our personal trainers can deliver a very effective workout to a small group of members even if their fitness levels are different.
When we discovered the HIT Machine we decided that a studio concept which solved the three main barriers to exercise - time, motivation and cost - would be a perfect solution for the general public who haven’t yet found their way to getting healthier and improving their lives through exercise. Many people still see gyms as intimidating and find it impossible to become motivated, and with unattainable images of fitness models all over social media, people can get even more downbeat about exercise
We cater for the large number of people who don’t want to focus on macros and lifting heavier than everyone else - they just want to be healthy and improve their quality of life in a non-intimidating environment.
I predict that the health sector will continue to see a demand for more niche businesses, with technology playing a major part as people look for ways to save time and get healthy in an increasingly busy and time-pressured world. The sector won’t be dominated by paid ambassadors championing supplements and six-packs - it will be much more focused on real people making real changes to their lives.
Talking about life-changing, we’re really excited that one of our members is in the process of opening a HITZone studio in Shrewsbury, which we hope to have open by June. This licensee, who is in her fifties, became a member of our Telford studio in December 2015 and has seen such great results and discovered such a passion for health and wellness that she wanted to open her own studio!