Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s hype, there’s trillions being thrown around to achieve health, happiness, and glowing skin.
According to The Global Wellness Institute, the business of wellness is now a $4.2 trillion global industry – with 12.8% growth from 2015-2017. That’s trillion, people. It’s a market that encompasses everything from physical fitness to mental clarity; from food and supplements to skincare and beauty regimes; from travel experiences to sleeping aids; and anything falling under the banner of ‘self-care’.
It’s also a market rife with snake oil… quite literally in the form of venom facials, vampire repellent and vaginal steaming. Or what Hadley Freeman at The Guardian calls, “this slippery crossover between wellness and actual toxic bullshit.”
No one knows wellness, bullshit and corporate investing better than Gwyneth Paltrow. Her empire, Goop, is described by The Financial Times as “a sprawling multi-category business with a staff of 220. It was given a valuation of $250m during its last round of funding last February.”
According to Forbes, that round raised $50 million in series C funding from investors such as NEA, Lightspeed and Felix Capital. “The influx of capital brings Goop’s total outside investment to $82 million, following family-and-friend funding, a $10 million series A in 2015 and a $15 million series B in 2016,” wrote Madeline Berg.
Is it only a matter of time before Goop goes public? And if so, would you invest?
FitBit (FIT) provides a cautionary tale. Its 2015 initial public offering was priced at $20 per share and opened at $30.40. By 2016 the company was spending far faster than it was earning and the share price dropped 75%. Today the stock trades around $3.
From an investor perspective, one of the hottest new entrants to the wellness industry has been legal cannabis companies, spurred by the sudden ubiquity of cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is being used in epilepsy treatments, body oils, cosmetics, sleeping aids and anxiety remedies for pets. The Motley Fool reports that, “According to the Brightfield Group, global CBD sales are expected to soar from $591 million in 2018 to approximately $22 billion by 2022. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 147%…”
What would Warren Buffett do (WWWBD)? The world-famous investor and advice-giver once said: “Buy a stock the way you would buy a house. Understand and like it such that you’d be content to own it in the absence of any market.”
If there were no stock market, what companies would you feel good about having ownership in?
Setting aside the novelties of high-flying pot stocks, fitness fads and celebrity-endorsed IPOs, there are plenty of time-tested companies who do very well in the business of wellness. Jamieson (JWEL) is the leader in Canada with a 25% market share of vitamins and supplements. Nike (NKE) consistently delivers a double-digit return on investment year after year.
In the meantime, BS remains a relative term. What Gwyneth calls “bullshit” is the conflation of wellness with privilege. In an interview with The Financial Times, she quite rightly pointed out, “This idea that wellness is aspirational, and for rich people, it’s absolutely not true at all. At the crux of it, the true tenets of wellness — meditation, eating whole foods, drinking a lot of water, sleeping well, thinking good thoughts, trying to be optimistic — are all free.” And $400 incense burners are just business.