Stakes were high at the FounderMade Consumer Discovery Show in New York City on November 17 and 18: For a fledgling wellness brand, catching the attention of the right person—a buyer at Whole Foods, a top investor, or maybe even an editor at Well+Good (wink wink)—could set you on the path to becoming the next RXBar, Bulletproof, or Birchbox. And yet, the energy was higher. (The Discovery Lounge, the bustling room where over 300 brands mingled and promo-ed with over 1,000 attendees, couldn’t have been more of a misnomer—not a lounging person was to be found.)
“We are thrilled by the energy and passion we saw come from the show,” says FounderMade co-founder and COO Navi Ganancial. “This was our largest show to date and are so humbled and grateful to all of our thought leaders, brands, and attendees who came together for two days of product discovery and education.”
Wellness is going mainstream in a major way in 2018.
Next door to the Discovery Lounge, leaders from across the beauty, food, and health industries—including reps from heavy hitters like Target, Starbucks, and Whole Foods—took to the stage to share their visions of the future. And there’s one thing everyone can see (and they don’t even need a crystal ball): Wellness is going mainstream in a major way in 2018.
You may diligently read ingredients lists and choose natural products over chemical-filled ones, but does your mom? Your aunt? Your boyfriend? “Putting it in perspective, the natural and organic segment is still tiny,” says Eric Carl, enterprise wellness strategy lead at Target, noting that it only accounts for about 5 percent of sales in all CPG (consumer packaged goods) categories. “But it’s the part that’s driving growth, which is why everyone is placing big bets and really getting behind it. For the mainstream consumers out there it’s still so new. Each consumer is at a different point on their [natural] journey.”
What specifically will hit it big in the coming year?
Here are the top trends spotted at the FounderMade Consumer Discovery Show.
1. Ingredient-conscious products will fill the health and hygiene aisles
According to Carl, your less wellness-obsessed friends and family are about to get hip to your aluminum-free deodorant and fluoride-free toothpaste choices. “There are a few categories I think are just at the tipping point from a wellness standpoint: Natural deodorant, natural oral care, natural cosmetics, feminine care,” he says. ‘They’ve seen explosive growth at Target as in the market people are realizing the harmfulness of putting these chemicals in your body.”
In just the past week, P&G announced that it’s acquiring the cult-fave non-toxic deodorant band Native, and at the Consumer Discovery Show, the presence of emerging natural brands like The Honey Pot Co. (plant-based feminine care) and Hello (“naturally friendly” toothpaste) added further credence to Carl’s prediction.
2. More than just your milk will be plant-based
Raise your hand if you only use almond or oat milk in your coffee. (Same.) But, what about your yogurt? “We’ve seen so much in the plant-based fluid milk space and that’s been tremendously successful,” says Elly Truesdell, who handles global product innovation and development at Whole Foods. “But there hasn’t been as much in the way of offering non-dairy alternatives to yogurt, pudding, and other traditionally dairy foods. I’m excited about a lot of those products.”
3. Big brands will dedicate more square-footage to wellness
Catherine Moellering, general merchandising manager of beauty at Anthropologie, points out that the best place to find products made without parabens, pthalates, and other chemicals that wellness-savvy beauty consumers avoid is currently online, but that’s about to change. “I think wellness is one of those categories that does benefit from an in-store experience,” Moellering says. As wellness goes mainstream, “I think that the customer is going to start to take the fact that the product is clean and good for them a little bit for granted, and actually start to want the products to really be beautiful in addition to being good for them,” she adds. So being able to see, hold, and sniff your serums and sprays before you buy will become integral to the shopping experience.
“The brick and mortar retailers are going to catch up to [online beauty stores], and they’re going to give wellness products more and more floor space,” says Moellering. “You can see in our store how much space is dedicated to beauty, and places like Madewell are now entering that space—and I think the same thing is going to happen to wellness.” Putting her money where her mouth is, Moellering says Anthropologie is launching a wellness-dedicated store (selling things like lunch boxes perfect for healthy meal prep and “air care” products that cleanse the air in your home rather than just adding fragrance) inside its large format location in Palo Alto, CA.
4. Shoppers want to feel like their money is making a difference
It’s not news that the world today can feel like a dark, scary place, so many people are looking for ways they can make a difference. If you can help a worthy cause while also getting an amazing new moisturizer or pair of socks, it’s a huge win-win. “I think people no longer want to just buy and buy and acquire and acquire without having anything that gives back,” says Sheikha Fatima Al Sabah, co-founder of the body care line Prismologie, which was created with mood-boosting in mind. People are gravitating towards mission-based brands, she adds, “Not only for the quality of their products, but because there is a story. We want them to feel a certain way, to inspire them to go after a goal they’re trying to achieve.”
Tom’s and Bombas may immediately spring to mind when you think of brands that are connected to charities, but they’re not the only ones. For every product sold, Soapbox Soaps donates a bar of soap to a person in need. And SmartyPants Vitamins matches every bottle of gummies sold with a nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels, a non-profit organization that provides vitamins and minerals to at-risk populations such as children and pregnant women.
5. Female-founded companies are putting women’s issues first
The narrative behind so many of the brands showcased at the FounderMade Consumer Discovery Show shared a common core: I saw a problem, and I created something to fix it. And when the person at the company’s helm is a woman, the problem that needs solving can sometimes be one that men—who too often control the purse strings at investment firms and distributors—have a hard time understanding. “We’re very in tune with our needs, our wants, and our problems, and we create businesses that solve our problems,” says Divya Gugnani, who founded Wander Beauty’s line of double-duty cosmetics in order to simplify the morning routine for busy women. “Sometimes the person sitting across from us [in a meeting] is a male and doesn’t understand those problems at the level that they may understand other business problems. They can’t identify with us, and that becomes the difficulty in raising funding and building your business.”
Difficult, maybe, but not impossible, as a panel of women—including Gugnani and Well+Good’s co-founder and chief content officer Melisse Gelula—proves. Sakara Life, a 100 percent plant-based food delivery service, for instance, was started when co-founders Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise decided to give their health—worn down by fad diets and a Wall Street schedule—an overhaul. Almond milk brand Malk and allergy-friendly snack company Partake Foods were both launched after their founders (August Vega and Denise Woodard, respectively) failed to find delicious, nourishing foods for their allergy-suffering kids. And in the Discovery Lounge, female-founded sex toy company Dame Products gave (G-rated) product demos of its line of vibrators, which are specifically designed for women’s needs.
As far as wellness goes, the intersection of mission and vision really is the sweet spot—not a bad thing to look forward to in the coming year.