Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Wellness Is Coming For Your Beer


From the US to the UK and Iceland to Japan, the number of drinkers in the world decreased by nearly 5% between 2000 and 2017. More specifically, Americans are increasingly laying off the booze. New data shows that US alcohol volumes dropped last year, with beer volumes down 1.5% in 2018, as sales growth in wine and spirits slowed during the same period. 

As the trend toward mindful drinking or complete abstinence continues, beverage makers large and small are attempting to shift their strategies to align with changing consumer preferences by launching low- or no-alcohol options. At the same time, new opportunities abound for upstart brands concocting functional beverages, wellness elixirs, or healthier takes on alcoholic drinks. 

With campaigns featuring Lance Armstrong, Shalane Flanagan, and Chris Pratt, Michelob Ultra is striving to be the go-to beer for consumers who live an active lifestyle. And now, their parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev is making a push to appeal to a health-minded crowd. To that end, the company has created a “Chief Non-Alcoholic Beverages Officer” position, acquired organic energy drink maker Hiball, and recently launched Bon & Viv spiked seltzer. As Chelsea Phillips, head of marketing for AB InBev’s Beyond Beer division put it, “People are looking for something that tastes good but also allows them to live well.”

With non-alcoholic beer volumes in the US expected to grow 9.3% over the next five years, AB InBev isn’t alone in trying to capitalize on this trend. Newcomers like non-alcoholic Athletic Brewing Company and WellBeing Brewing, along with electrolyte-enhanced and gluten-free brewer Sufferfest Beer Company, are already making waves. And the industry is starting to take note — just last week Sierra Nevada acquired Sufferfest.

Meanwhile, Molson Coors is taking a different path by pursuing a portfolio of “brewed beverages.” Chief executive Mark Hunter told the WSJ that could include beer, tea, and even coffee. So far, the company has invested in Bhakti Chai and acquired Clearly Kombucha, proving that they’re not, as Hunter put it, sitting on their hands. 

The takeaway? All signs point to consumers wanting more wellness, not less. Once, hitting the bar was a preferred form of escapism. Now, some 70% of millennials brag about how long it has been since they drank alcohol, not how much they drink. In its place, younger generations are choosing to spend their money on “wellness” or experiences. In addition to creating an opportunity for beverage companies large and small, it’s further proof that everything from alcohol and travel to beauty and beyond is getting the wellness treatment.

Headlines & Happenings

🎟 LifePass 

Back in 2016, Vanity Fair published an article claiming to have leaked documents about the future of ClassPass. The contents, according to VF, said ClassPass would launch streaming video, a gym pass, and a non-fitness initiative called LifePass. In the years since, ClassPass Live and gym partnerships have come to fruition. Now, after shuffling its business plan and advancing its overseas ambitions through the acquisition of GuavaPass, LifePass could be the next frontier. In fact, ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman said as much in an interview with the Evening Standard. 

“The five-year vision is not just to be the Netflix of health and wellness but to add other types of experiences and help you to manage your free time. Whether that’s going to comedy shows or sporting events or things with your friends or even volunteering.” 

That’s an interesting take and one that sounds vaguely familiar… *ahem*, Groupon. But given the amount of money ClassPass has raised, they have no choice but to seek out more and larger opportunities. Is there a sustainable path forward or will discounting fitness lead to a Groupon or MoviePass-like future?

💪 HIIT the Jackpot

Orangetheory Fitness brought in more than $1B in systemwide revenues for 2018. Eight years after opening its first studio in 2010, the company has expanded to more than 1,100 studios in 49 US states and 22 countries, with 500+ studios in its development pipeline. According to co-founder and CEO Dave Long, OTF plans to reach “2,500 studios – serving 2.5 million members, worldwide – within the next 5 years."


Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop signed a deal with Netflix to create a wellness docuseries for the platform and some folks aren’t thrilled about it. Vox wrote that this deal gives Goop’s health hogwash a bigger platform, while actual doctors and health professionals have also slammed the move. And Reddit did what Reddit does. What are your thoughts?

💰 Money Moves

Meditation app Calm raised $88M in Series B financing, valuing the company at $1B.

Hydrow by CREW, an at-home rower with live workouts (the Peloton of rowing), raised $20M in a round led by L Catterton.

Ketogenic lifestyle brand Low-Carb High-Fat, LLC, a subsidiary of Disruptive Enterprises, LLC and makers of FBOMB and KetoLogic, raised $7.75M in Series A financing.

Perfect Day, makers of animal-free dairy protein, raised $34.75M to bring its synthetic milk to market. 

MycoTechnology raised $30M to continue the development of its vegan protein made from the fermentation of mushrooms.

Little Spoon, a DTC organic baby food company, landed a $7M round of funding led by Vaultier7.

by Humankind, an environmentally-friendly personal care brand out to eliminate single-use plastic, secured $4M in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau.

Honest Company co-founder Christopher Gavigan received $3.3M in funding for his CBD startup Prima

Beyond Food Inc., a company tackling food waste, closed $1M in funding to help launch its Zero Waste Pod — a system that turns aging supermarket produce into a powdered food supplement.

Microbiome-based personalized food startup Viome is acquiring personalized nutrition company Habit from Campbell Soup Company.

Update: Unilever acquired UK snack brand company graze from The Carlyle Group for $194M. Issue No. 14 of Insider included initial reporting that talks were underway.

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