The most innovative wellness companies of 2021
Wellness brands showed off their endurance and flexibility during the pandemic, as studios shuttered and people around the world sought out ways to feel healthier, happier, and less stressed in trying times. This year’s Most Innovative Wellness Companies managed to keep consumers interested and engaged with their health (and their products) while at home, and also helped maintain a sense of community, even as in-person classes and services shut down.
For motivating consumers to keep working out, even after weeks and months at home
Peloton’s growth during the pandemic may have been catalyzed by stay-at-home orders, but it was propelled by the company’s smart digital strategy. Throughout the spring and summer, the company introduced “threshold deliveries,” to get its bikes to customers safely, invested in hazard pay for workers, and repurposed retail teams to take customer calls due to the high volume. By launching new content, like dance cardio classes and a “family fun” vertical, a higher-end Bike+ with a rotating screen and Apple Watch connectivity, and partnerships with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV, Peloton committed to making its at-home workout offerings the best part of quarantine.
For infusing Calm into every aspect of our lives
Meditation app Calm saw huge spikes in popularity coinciding with the pandemic, and quickly moved to capitalize on the moment: In May, the company made a deal with Kaiser Permanente to offer free membership to all of the insurer’s 12.4 million members. It ramped up efforts to offer corporate subscriptions, and capitalized on 2020 election anxiety by cleverly sponsoring portions of CNN’s election night coverage. The company also continued to expand its partnerships with Hollywood, premiering a 10-episode HBO Max series called A World of Calm, a visual expansion of its hit bedtime stories. The brand partnered with artists including Sam Smith, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Kygo to expand its offerings on meditative music platform Calm Music, and launched a series of branded puzzles with Spin Master Games in December.
For watching our form, even when no one else is around
In 2020, the at-home smart strength training system added Form Feedback, which uses 17 sensors in Tonal and its smart accessories to collect data about your form and give you real-time feedback and corrections—extremely important when it’s not possible to work with a trainer in person. The company also launched Smart Flex, a dynamic weight mode that identifies your strongest and weakest points during an exercise and automatically adjusts the resistance throughout each rep to optimize your workout.
For reminding (and reminding, and reminding) us to take our pill
Despite being the most common form of contraception in the U.S., the birth control pill has a 9% failure rate, largely from missed doses. “The way we’re managing the pill really hasn’t changed since the ’60s,” says Emme cofounder Amanda French. “I knew that was a problem I could solve with technology.” The Emme Smart Case uses a multisensor system to detect if the day’s pill is present, and sends reminders until the user takes it. The companion app tracks users’ cycles and provides CDC-recommended information about what to do if they miss a pill, based on when in their cycle it occurred. The $99 case is compatible with more than 150 brands, eligible for FSA and HSA spending, and in beta testing reduced missed pills by 80%.
For monitoring body temperatures—and catching COVID-19 early
When pro sports leagues, including the NBA, WNBA, and UFC, wanted to safely return to their seasons, they turned to the Oura smart ring. The activity tracker picks up and alerts users to body temperature changes, and is being used in research around predicting COVID-19 outbreaks. The company also launched Health Risk Management, a platform for monitoring group health.
For stretching fitness studios’ and spas’ offerings to online services during the shutdown
Mindbody was founded as a software to help fitness studios, spas, and health centers manage appointment scheduling, payment, and marketing. During the pandemic, it quickly shifted to help its thousands of businesses thrive in the digital space, giving them a platform to livestream classes and upload on-demand classes for consumers to access, and offer hybrid in-person and digital subscriptions. In 2021, the company launched its own membership platform to allow users to access multiple fitness studios through just one monthly subscription.
For guiding alcoholics to recovery, remotely
Tempest’s app-based remote treatment program for alcohol addiction is research backed. In 2020, it launched an affordable membership model that offers three levels of assistance, starting with access to online support communities for just $12 per month and going up to $71 per month for a personalized road map, weekly live workshops, and a clinical program.
8. Alo Yoga
For branching out from an apparel company to a lifestyle brand
Cult-favorite yoga apparel brand Alo Yoga has carved out its space in the digital fitness world with Alo Moves, an on-demand class platform that thrived during stay-at-home orders. Now the company is expanding into Ayurvedic inspired products with the launch of Glow System, a plant-based clean beauty line. The company’s revenue increased by more than 150% last year.
9. Future Method
For demystifying the steps to safe, comfortable anal sex
Future Method launched in 2019 with products for anal sex, an area that the intimate care industry had long brushed off as taboo. In 2020, the company expanded from making a cleansing solution to producing a clinically safe pre- and post-sex wash. The company also revamped its educational materials to include people of different genders and sexual orientations.
For souping up an electric toothbrush with assistive, smart technology
We’ve seen smart technology added to everything from weights to watches to sneakers—now the Oral B iO is bringing it to dental health, intelligently. The brush uses a smart sensor to tell you where you have and haven’t brushed enough and when you need to ease up or add pressure—all of which you can track in real-time on the companion app. It also has special modes for sensitivity, whitening, and gum care. In clinical tests, it was shown to achieve 100% healthier gums after one week, remove six times more plaque along the gumline, and heal 83% of gingivitis patients to healthy gums in eight weeks.