Mindfulness has crossed over into the mainstream and is proving to be a serious moneymaker. With billions on the line, two industry frontrunners—Calm and Headspace—are going head-to-head. A far from cry from the zen vibes they advocate for, this showdown proves that all’s fair in self-love and business. At the same time, mindfulness is becoming the perfect case study for the power of the wellness economy

Right on time

Timing, as they say, is everything. It also helps explain how meditation became a $1.2B industry that’s now projected to reach $2.08B by 2022. With the likes of CorePower Yoga, lululemon, and Wanderlust paving the way, meditation drafted off these forebears of mindfulness. But this is where our obsession with optimization took over. From happiness to productivity, we began tracking, tweaking, and testing new methods for reducing stress and increasing output. Meanwhile, technology had reached a point where meditation could fit seamlessly into our pockets and, thus, our lives. 

Once, mindfulness meant casting off society to travel the world in search of enlightenment. Now, meditation has become just another means of achieving “wellness”. And that helps explain how the number of Americans who meditate tripled between 2012 and 2015. This shift also helped self-care apps land the top spot on Apple’s 2018 trends list, with consumers spending $32M on mindfulness apps like Calm, Headspace, and 10% Happier. 

Mindful competition 

Circling back to our frontrunners, the WSJ characterized Calm and Headspace as being in a “mindful competition”. Although Headspace has out-fundraised Calm ($75.2M and $25M, respectively) and employs a larger staff (230 to 40), Calm began pulling ahead after earning recognition as Apple’s 2017 App of the Year. Between December 2017 and October 2018, Calm earned $50.7M while Headspace saw revenue of $34.3M, according to Sensor Tower.

Looking forward, the Headspace team is currently seeking FDA approval as the first prescription meditation app that could qualify for coverage by health insurers. Meanwhile, the Calm team intends to remain atop the industry, with co-founder Michael Acton Smith wishing the others, “the best for second place.”

Headlines & Happenings 
Pivot to video
In the media world, the pivot to video saw publishers cut writers in favor of short-form video content. As a growing number of fitness providers move toward streaming and on-demand content, there’s a pivot to video-like moment taking place. For established providers, this is less of a ‘pot committed’ strategy and more of an attempt at diversification. MINDBODY is a prime example. 

Following word that Vista Equity Partners will acquire the company for $1.9B, MINDBODY’s CEO Rick Stollmeyer said, “You can expect us to be playing in that space, because we think that the on-demand and streaming video revolution hitting the fitness space is a big breakthrough.” Whether or not MINDBODY will be producing and distributing its own content (like DailyBurn) or creating a platform where studios/instructors can upload content (like YouTube) is yet to be seen. 

The rise of Big Vegan
In the long read of the week, Bloomberg took a deep dive into the characters, conflicts, and piles of cash fueling the “vegan revolution”. Between 2017 and the middle of 2018, overall sales of vegan items in the US grew by 20%, reaching $3.3B. With new animal-free upstarts landing millions in funding on a regular basis, we’re left wondering, who’s calling the shots? Enter: Chris Kerr, the co-founder and chief investment officer of New Crop Capital, a venture firm that has backed 30-plus vegan food companies, including Good Catch Foods, Purple Carrot, and Beyond Meat

While Kerr floors the gas pedal, some purests are pumping the breaks. In an effort to reach mass-market scale, vegan food companies are being financed and operationalized by Big Food — a fact that’s hard to swallow for true plant-based believers. Plus, there are concerns that many of the hottest animal-free alternatives, like the Impossible Burger, aren’t any healthier than the original. Bottom line: the plant-based business is booming, but the goal of overhauling the global food system is a long way off.

Across the pond 
In hopes of expanding into Europe, a growing number of US-based fitness franchises are testing the waters in the UK. With a head start that includes 150 sites, Anytime Fitness announced plans to open 400 studios in the UK by 2020. Orangetheory Fitness intends to ramp up its presence significantly, going from three sites to 110 with the help of two master franchise agreements. Following up on the fall launch of its London studio, boutique cycling concept CycleBar is looking to add 30 more studios in the UK within five years. 

Meanwhile, the 2018 London Boutique Studio Report shows that the sector has grown 281% over the last five years. Between January and October 2018, 61 studios opened (up from 46 in 2017). All told, an estimated 15,806 boutique classes are currently offered across 278 sites in London each week.

Last week's email, What's Next in Wellness, featured the Fitt Insider Outlook for 2019. The piece sparked great conversations with subscribers who have reached out to share their feedback. If you missed it the first time around, we hope you take a few minutes to check it out.