FEATURE: Five ways to make wellness work for your business
Wellness isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for business.
At an estimated value of more than $6 trillion worldwide, the ‘wellness economy’ — defined by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) as “industries that enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives” — now accounts for more than 5 percent of global economic output.
It might be tempting to dismiss wellness as a fad, but it’s impossible to deny that today’s consumers are placing more value on their health and well-being than ever before. According to the GWI, the wellness economy grew by more than 12 percent from 2015 to 2017, while the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the number of nutritionists and physiotherapists in Australia is expected to increase by 18 and 25 percent, respectively, by 2023.
With more brands attempting to speak the language of wellness and a steady stream of startups seeking to secure a foothold in this increasingly competitive industry, we asked a select group of Brisbane businesses in the wellness space to identify the trends that are shaping the market.
Today’s consumer is more discerning than ever about what they put into — and onto — their body, with a preference for ‘clean’ (natural) ingredients.
Stephen Donnelly is the co-founder of Foods From The Earth, a Rocklea-based company that has patented a chemical-free process for removing unpleasant tastes and smells from pulses like mung beans, chickpeas and faba beans without reducing their nutritional value, making them ideal raw food ingredients.
“We saw a demand from people who wanted to use pulse products but had a problem with tastes and smells holding them back,” Donnelly says. “Pulses are great for people with allergies and problems processing gluten, but there’s also just a big push in the mainstream to make products healthier. People have finally realised there’s a consequence to what they do with their bodies. If they eat better, they’ll feel better.”
Michael Bishop, owner of the Cleveland-based Alchemy Cordial Company, has seen the rise of the wellness economy reflected in the popularity of his ‘superfood lattes’, Golden Turmeric Elixir and Maho Matcha Elixir, which he primarily sells to cafés.
“As a kid I desperately wanted to be Willy Wonka, so when I started Alchemy in 1997 my goal was to become the Willy Wonka of the cordial world,” he laughs. “But Willy Wonka isn’t cool anymore, because he’s a peddler of sugar. There has been a profound shift in the public psyche away from sugar and towards healthier alternatives, so our new products are focused on reducing sugar content or removing it altogether.
“We’ve always made products that taste great, but now they’re good for you, too. That’s our vision for the future — we see our products as delicious medicine.”
Jeff Flood, a nutritional immunotherapist and the CEO of Harrisville-based Summer Land Camels, says the rise of ‘clean eating’ has been mirrored by the rise of ‘clean beauty’. His company produces organic camel milk products, including a full range of pure camel milk skincare. Their Camel Milk Body Cream was recently named the Body Care Product of the Year by the Consumer Survey of Product Innovation.
“It’s about not putting anything on your skin that is going to be damaging,” he says. “If you wouldn’t eat it, why would you put it on your skin? And yet if you read the ingredients of virtually any skincare product, you’ll find something in there that’s absolutely toxic to your health. There’s a real movement towards getting back to basics, keeping life simple and using natural ingredients, and that’s definitely benefiting us.”
People don’t just want the products they buy to be good for them — they want them to be good for the planet, too.
Coffee Streams of Australia, a wholesale coffee retailer located in the Brisbane CBD, has responded to consumer demand for sustainability by manufacturing biodegradable coffee pods. Whereas most coffee pods are difficult to recycle because of their plastic and aluminium construction, Coffee Streams of Australia’s innovative pods are made from rice, and start breaking down shortly after use.
CEO George Kalatzis, who also operates Atomic Cafe at the same location, says the pods are just one way his company appeals to customers trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
“The coffee itself is grown in North Queensland on plantations powered by solar electricity, using best practice sustainable farming methods,” he says. “We don’t use any sprays or chemicals. It’s a local product in its most natural form.
“We don’t drive the market. The market drives us, and the market wants green, clean and sustainable products.”
Stephen Donnelly says sustainability has also helped drive demand for Foods Of The Earth’s pulses, as awareness of the environmental impact of meat production grows.
“Going forward, plant-based products are where people are going to be getting a lot of their protein from,” he says. “One kilogram of pulses takes about 50 litres of water to produce, whereas one kilogram of beef requires about 13,000 litres, so you can produce pulse protein with a lot less water. There’s also no refrigeration required… it’s more sustainable across the board.”
Alchemy’s Michael Bishop says a growing awareness of the importance of sustainability has been inseparable from the rise of wellness in the café scene.
“Cafés have transformed in the last five years, and the big drivers of that have been wellness and sustainability,” he says. “You’ve seen the widespread adoption of keep cups and the rejection of plastic straws and single use plastic — these things have been real game-changers that started out with a vocal minority and quickly became movements.”
Today’s consumers want to know where the products they buy are really from — and this creates an opportunity for businesses with a good story to tell.
George Kalatzis says provenance and transparency have become strong selling points for his brand.
“We work very closely with 16 farms in north Queensland,” he says. “Obviously, it gives us a nice feeling to support Queensland communities, but being so close to our growers also means that we can actually put the date the coffee was picked on the packaging. As far as I know, we’re the only company in the world that does that — other brands will tell you the date the coffee was roasted, but not the date it was picked. For coffee connoisseurs and fanatics, the type of people who want to know all about the origin of their coffee, you can’t beat that level of transparency.”
Stephen Donnelly says the local provenance of Foods From The Earth’s pulses has helped to win business from overseas.
“I think being able to trace the products back to Australian farms gives people a feeling of security,” he says. “We’ve seen that in China — they prefer to buy Australian mung beans over their locally produced mung beans, because they know there’s far stronger oversight on Australian farms. People do want to know what’s going into their food and into their body, and where it’s coming from.”
Be open to collaboration
With so many businesses entering the wellness space, it can seem a little crowded — but Jeff Flood says it helps to think in terms of collaboration, not competition.
“I think people wanting to enter the space need to find mentors and work with people who’ve been where they are,” he says. “They’ll understand what you need to do, because they’ve done it. The reality is that a lot of startups don’t make it, so you have to use the resources that are available to you to make connections, share what you’re doing, get feedback, find out about more resources that can help you, and reduce your risk.”
Flood recently took part in the Future Food Brisbane Global Markets and Investor Readiness program, a Brisbane Economic Development Agency initiative designed to grow the food and agribusiness ecosystem within the Greater Brisbane region and give businesses the tools, connections and knowledge they need to succeed.
“That was a wonderful experience,” he says. “Brisbane EDA and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia organised a great series of speakers and people you could talk to about your business, to share what you’re doing and hear all about what they’re doing. It was a very open and collaborative process.
“Brisbane EDA have been great supporters of Summer Land Camels in every way.”
Alchemy’s Michael Bishop also took part in the Future Food Brisbane Global Markets and Investor Readiness program, and found it was a great chance to make meaningful connections.
“Many of the people in the cohort I went through the program with were people I had met briefly at trade shows, so to have the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with them was fantastic,” he says. “We’ve gone on to do business with a number of the people that were in our cohort.”
Find your own lane
Of course, collaboration is important. Ultimately, however, success in the wellness space is much like success anywhere else — you have to find out what makes you unique.
“I grew up in the café and restaurant business,” George Kalatzis says, “but today’s market is very different. There are cafés on every corner. You have to have a point of difference to compete. For us, our points of difference are that we work with local growers; that we’re clean, green and sustainable; that we’re a café that has its own brand of coffee; and that you’ll never find that brand in a supermarket.”
For all the health benefits of Alchemy’s ‘superfood lattes’, Michael Bishop admits that their popularity can largely be credited to their unique appearance.
“Social media has really made that possible,” he says. “Our golden tumeric elixir is … bright yellow in the glass, and it’s very Instagrammable. Soon enough, everyone wanted to try this bright yellow drink, just because it looked interesting — but then they looked into it further and found it was good for them, too. We followed that with a bright green drink, and a bright red drink, and they went off on Instagram, too.
“The flipside of that is that the lifespan of innovation is shorter than it ever was. If you think you’re going to get old and live off some idea you’ve had that’s hot right now, you’re kidding yourself. It’s such a dynamic industry, and it’s changing so fast.
“You’ve got to stay in touch and stay curious, because it’s all about what’s next.”