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Wellness Trends to Watch in 2021

Experts project for consumers to take more personal control of their individual health and wellness in the year ahead.

“Personalization is the future — if you can afford it,” said Beth McGroarty, director of research at the Global Wellness Institute. The nonprofit, which works to educate the public and private sectors on preventative health and wellness, forecasts trends in the industry.

“Ultimately, the holy grail in the next few years, and it’s already happening now, is more personalized testing,” she continued.

At-home genetic and gut testing companies have been on the rise and will carry on evolving as consumers continue to educate themselves in the space and seek to better understand their immune system and individual needs.

Prices have gone down in the market, McGroarty was quick to add, making wellness more accessible these days. While tests typically cost $2,000 a few years ago, they’re now down to around $200 a kit.

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“It was already a $4.5 trillion market, and then the pandemic hit, and I think it really changed the importance of wellness to people, but also got rid of kind of frustration and silly, very elitist and expensive wellness,” McGroarty said.

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Accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, the wellness market — which comprises a wide range of categories — is moving away from inaccessibility and overpricing.

Take fitness, for example. While boutique dance and exercise classes have been costly pre-pandemic, virtual at-home options are available at considerably less.

Megan Roup from the Sculpt Society, an app she launched in November 2019, provides a variety of videos for dance cardio, sculpting with weights, yoga and meditation. The instructor offers a lot of content with different programs and offerings (from five-minute “quickies” to 50-minute “full bodies”) for $119 a year (or $19.99 a month). Her boutique fitness class in New York City, which is currently closed due to the health crisis, costs $35 a session.

“It’s way more cost effective, way more time effective,” Roup said of the app. “This pandemic has been so crazy with the growth of the community, and word of mouth is just one of those things that’s so powerful.”

From March to April 2020, her business grew 700 percent: “It was just this massive influx of people.”

Megan Roup fitness
Megan Roup of The Sculpt Society. Courtesy

Roup also frequently hosts live videos on the app, where fans interact with her and each other via chat. While able to feel engaged in a community and work out in the comfort of their homes, it’s also a way for members to get a sense of accountability and show up.

“I think it was a game changer,” she said of the live element on the app, which attracts hundreds — sometimes thousands — of virtual attendees from around the world. She’s continuing to see success with the business, which grew about 20 percent over Black Friday.

“The move during the pandemic towards consuming everything digitally — fitness classes, yoga classes, meditation classes, mental health support — this is what’s building,” explained McGroarty. “The move from a brick-and-mortar boutique model to online has created so much access overnight.”

Another expected trend of note is the continued use of in-home products as consumers stay home, she said. In beauty, NuFace is a leader in the category.

The family-owned company, launched by Carol Cole and daughters Tera Peterson and Kim Morales in 2000, produces Food and Drug Administration-cleared face tools that use microcurrent technology to sculpt and firm skin.

The business had “triple-digit growth” on last year, said Peterson, an aesthetician and chief creative officer of the brand.

Last year was one of change for NuFace. The team worked from home while focused on educating existing and new consumers on products through social media and digital initiatives, like free one-on-one consultations with aestheticians — all while working to convert a significant area of their Southern California office into digital spaces.

“It will be a place for us to shoot content,” continued Peterson. “It’s half the building. We’re really switching up the way we do things moving forward.”

Like Roup, who foresees home workouts as a way to supplement physical classes in the future, Peterson said skin-care tools will similarly play a more significant role and add benefit to routines alongside spa treatments.

Last year was also a dark year as Americans faced the realities of COVID-19, lost loved ones, were furloughed and laid off, all amid a tense presidential election. The essential need of a working and accessible health-care system has been a front-and-center issue.

“Just like people were forced to think more about their homeland security after Sept. 11, after 2020, people want to be well,” said Dr. Gerry Curatola, a wellness expert and biologic dentist with a holistic approach to oral care.

“The most important focus for wellness in 2021, in my opinion as a biologic dentist, is our immune system,” he continued. “What’s interesting is that what goes on in your mouth has a huge amount to do with our immune system.”

Curatola, who has more than 35 years of clinical practice experience, works in Manhattan and runs a dental, medical and wellness center in East Hampton. He has plans to establish an institute to train dentists in biologic dentistry, an approach that recognizes the connection between the mouth, body, illness and disease. It’s a “preventative, proactive” approach to health care, rather than “reactive.”

“So many people whose immune system are compromised have a problem with an imbalance in the natural ecology of the mouth, called the oral microbiome,” said Curatola, author of “The Mouth-Body Connection.” “If the oral microbiome is out of balance, the immune system is compromised.”

Dr. Gerry Curatola Wellness Center
Inside Dr. Gerry Curatola’s center, which offers services like energy therapy. Courtesy

Understanding the immune system, as well as the importance of the gut and microbiome (microbes like bacteria and fungi in the body) is a trend that’s here to stay, said McGroarty.

“Everyone has been obsessed with immunity, and it’s a very complicated system,” she said. “It’s about understanding that system and how to best balance it, not boost it. There really isn’t any way to boost your immune system.”

As personalized testing grows, consumers will be able to determine which foods to eat, avoid and what supplements they need.

“Not everybody needs all supplements,” said Curatola. “I think what we’re going to see is a much bigger direction in personalized medicine for using properly manufactured, optimal supplements that are targeted for the specific individual and their individual needs. We need better-quality supplements.”

The global dietary supplements market has been fast-growing in wellness, valued at $48.22 billion in 2019 and projected to reach $ 117.92 billion by 2027, according to a 2020 report released by market research company Grand View Research, Inc.

Jules Miller, founder and chief executive officer of The Nue Co. — science-backed supplements made with natural and organic ingredients that were launched in 2017 — has been working to elevate the category with quality products.

“Supporting your immunity is not as simple as taking a daily supplement,” said Miller. “Your immune system is a complex function, interconnected with so many facets of our overall health. We have definitely seen a shift in customer mind-set over the last year. Customers are now viewing their immunity as a holistic system, encompassing sleep, stress, gut health and movement…Immunity is an interesting example and absolutely a category we will see continue to develop in 2021.”

In early 2020, the brand saw “an immediate spike in sales” of its $35 “defense drops” product — a blend of adaptogens including eleuthero and astragalus “to support normal immune function” — and $45 ingestible immunity supplement — containing vitamin C.

“Sales across our immunity offering increased 600 percent month-on-month,” Miller continued. “This proved to be the start of a long-term shift with growth for the category reaching over 500 percent across 2020. With increased conversation around the supplementation of vitamin D as a way to boost immunity, we also saw the world of health care and wellness collide, with governments now prescribing and donating vitamin D to those most vulnerable as a means to prevent COVID-19. This was reflected in our own demand with vitamin D sales far exceeding our original forecasts and we sold out across global markets.”

At Rae Wellness, a dietary supplements company founded by Angela Tebbe and Eric Carl, the goal has been to create accessibility for women. All of the brand’s products, which are gluten-free, vegan, and use no sugar or artificial preservatives, are priced at $14.99 for a 30-day supply. They’re sold online and nationwide at Target.

“There are a lot of brands out there that are for the 1 percent and are unattainable,” said Tebbe, CEO at Rae Wellness. “How many non-diverse women do you need holding up expensive products?”

A trend that is most exciting to McGroarty of the Global Wellness Institute is women’s health and women’s sexuality. Formerly “taboo topics, they’re categories to watch,” she said.

Alongside its immunity products, Rae Wellness sells “In the Mood,” a supplement to spark a woman’s sexual desire. Ingredients are a mix of vitamins, minerals and herbs “that help with energy, blood flow, relaxation and calming the mind,” said Tebbe. The product saw “triple-digit percent increases” through 2020.

Rae Wellness
Rae Wellness’ “In the Mood” dietary supplements. Courtesy

“Women are getting really real about stigmatized categories like sex, and I think that’s going to expand,” she continued. “We’ve seen that through the conversations our community have had with one another…Viagra is government subsidized. But there has been nothing on the market for women’s desire.

“It’s been so fascinating to see how health and well-being has become such a large focus of daily life and proactive life versus reactive or clinical, almost,” she added. “What I’m so thrilled about is that women have really started to put themselves on the priority list.”