Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Weed Wants in on the Wellness Boom


From Reefer Madness to relief amidst the madness, weed has found a new audience in wellness circles. Now, instead of catering to potheads, there’s a contingent of cannabis brands targeting the self-care-seeking, anxiety-ridden, creative-minded wellness consumer. If early indications hold, “weed as wellness” will help cannabis achieve mainstream acceptance while forming a lucrative pillar of the billion dollar cannabis industry. 

On their own, wellness and cannabis are massive markets riding a wave of momentum. Clocking in at a whopping $4.2T, the global wellness industry—from personal care to physical fitness and tech to tourism—knows no bounds. Meanwhile, estimates put the legal and illegal sale of cannabis at $150B, with Euromonitor projecting that legal sales will account for 77% of the market, or $166B, by 2025.

At the same time, over the last year, CB Insights counted more than $2.2B of venture capital flowing to 324 cannabis deals globally. But size alone isn’t the story — it’s the strategy behind weed-meets-wellness brands that are proving to be on point.

“It’s not about recreation and intoxication anymore; it’s about wellness and natural solutions.” – Gunner Winston, CEO dosist

In this case, the strategy for appealing to wellness-seekers includes clean lines and simple branding, selling a solution or specific outcome, and an elevated shopping experience — both online or in-store. 

By co-opting the blueprint perfected by agencies like Gin Lane and Red Antler, cannabis companies are packaging their product for social media, not the street corner. Clicking over to the website for weed-related companies like Beboe, Canndescent, or Atlas, they could easily be mistaken for the branding most recently championed by personalized vitamins.

And when it comes to buying some bud, a gummy, or a vape, again, we see cannabis borrowing from the playbook of direct-to-consumer brands: they’re selling outcomes. No different than functional foods that support “gut health” or vitamins guaranteed to make your skin “glow”, the narrative (and marketing) for cannabis is moving away from being stoned and toward providing “relief”, “bliss”, or “connection”. 

“There is an evolution of looking at marijuana... from being about getting stoned to actually thinking of it as a wellness product.” – Linda Gilbert, BDS Analytics

Similarly, brick-and-mortar shops are going the route of experiential retail. MedMen have been dubbed “the Starbucks of weed”, dosist launched a “wellness experience” that has been likened to the Apple Store, and Barneys New York has introduced a luxury cannabis shop called The High End. It’s all part of the shift away from head shops and toward differentiated and lifestyle-driven brands built for the next generation of cannabis consumers.

Of course, none of this would be possible without innovative new delivery systems and the advent of precision dosing. 

When Colorado began selling legal pot in 2014, loose leaf weed (known as flower), accounted for 65% of sales. But in 2018, flower dropped to 47% as products from cannabis concentrate like vapes and edibles made up 29% and 15%, respectively. This trend is representative of the broader shift taking place in the industry where the flower is falling off. As The Ringer noted in The End of the Joint As We Know It, the doobie is disappearing as consumers opt for more discreet options that are smokeless, scentless, and more convenient.

But convenience is only one factor behind the rise of vape pens, topicals, and edibles. Precision dosing is the real game-changer. For years, getting high was a crapshoot. Depending on the strain and size of the drag or bite, users could be totally disappointed or utterly destroyed by the outcome. 

Now, rolling the dice is being replaced by dialed-in doses that promise to deliver specific solutions. Companies like dosist, Sunday Goods, and Roam are able to ensure that their specially-formulated vapes hit the mark — be it creativity, calm, or pain relief. And PAX is the perfect example of what’s to come. This high-tech vape lets users personalize their experience, controlling the dosage via a smartphone app.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the “green boom” is just beginning. As attitudes and laws continue to change, and cannabis goes from subculture to mainstream, THC and CBD will become commodities—like caffeine, collagen protein, or adaptogens—that reshape food, beverages, beauty, and wellness as we know it.

Headlines & Happenings

🧀 Impossible Dairy?

In Issue 27, the deep dive looked at Beyond Meat’s stellar stock market debut. In an effort to keep pace, Impossible Foods unveiled $300M in new funding the very next week. Now, Impossible Foods hopes it can pull ahead with its latest announcement: meat is only beginning; the dairy industry is in their crosshairs. 

“We have an entire dairy platform with our R&D capabilities… We haven’t yet announced the launch of our first dairy products, but stay tuned.”
– David Lee, CFO Impossible Foods 

While it’s unclear whether Impossible will take a plant-based or cultured path to replace dairy milk and cheese, the upside is plain to see. The dairy alternatives markets—including non-dairy milk, ice cream, and yogurt—is projected to reach $29.6B by 2023, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets. 

Considering the fact that Impossible’s co-founders Dr. Pat Brown and Monte Casino also had a hand in co-founding Lyrical Foods, makers of Kite Hill plant-based dairy products ($65.5M in funding from CAVU Venture Partners and General Mills), the protein-alternative company is poised to go beyond “meat”.

📢 Sound on

In the world of connected equipment, everyone is chasing Peloton. And when it comes to audio-based workouts, Aaptiv wants to separate itself from the pack. 

Founded in 2015 and armed with $55M in venture funding, including a $22M round in June 2018 at a reported valuation over $200M, Aaptiv is among the most-funded fitness startups in the game. It’s also one of the highest-grossing fitness apps — according to Sensor Tower, Aaptiv ranked seventh overall across iOS and Android devices, collectively. But despite their success, the field is becoming increasingly crowded as competition for the $27B digital fitness market heats up.

Besides having to fend off other apps like Kayla Itsines’s Sweat and Freeletics, Aaptiv also has to contend with big names like Peloton and ClassPass, who have introduced audio and on-demand options. The key, according to Aaptiv’s CEO Ethan Agarwal, is the quality of his company’s trainers, classes, and overall mission — to help people live healthier, more active lives. But, as Outside points out, that sounds an awful lot like almost every fitness app on the market (and most boutique studios too). 

Considering that Aaptiv’s total membership sits around 230,000, with 75% on a yearly subscription, they have one heck of a head start. But as time goes on, the battle for the best trainers and content will dictate winners and losers, leading some to collapse and others to consolidation in what could amount to a digital fitness roll-up.

💰 Money Moves

Glofox, a Dublin, Ireland-based provider of business management software for fitness studios and gyms, has raised $10M in Series A funding led by Octopus Ventures.

Hydrow, makers of a connected indoor rowing machine, expanded its Series A financing. In February, the company announced a $20M round. Now, the company has added an additional $7M—from investors including Rx3 Ventures (co-founded by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers), among others—to reach $27M in total funding.

Core​, a meditation and wellness company, raised $4M in seed funding.

Indose, makers of cannabis vaping products, landed $3.5M in funding from Snoop Dogg's venture capital firm Casa Verde Capital.

Halla, a startup using machine learning and AI to make food recommendations for grocery shoppers, closed a $1.4M seed round.

Plant-based beverage maker Zola was acquired by California-based cannabis company Caliva. Terms were not disclosed.

Bright Greens, makers of blender-free frozen smoothies, received an investment from S CAP — an investor focused on food & beverage and cleantech sectors. S CAP also announced an investment into Libre Naturals, makers of allergen-free foods, including granola bars, unbaked granolas, and oatmeal cups. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Cala Health, makers of wearable neuromodulation therapies for chronic disease, completed a $50M Series C financing.

Nestlé is entering into exclusive talks with a private equity group led by EQT Partners as it looks to offload its skincare business, including Proactiv acne treatments and Cetaphil moisturizers, in a deal that could fetch $10B.

The Latest on Insider


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🚲 Flywheel Sports Tosses a Hail Mary to Amazon

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