Things are more than well in the wellness sector

Today’s consumers have never been more interested in, or knowledgeable about, wellness. We spoke to tasty vitamin startup YourZooki, for an inside look at the industry.

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The global health and wellbeing industry is in the best shape of its life. It’s already vast – valued at £1.1 trillion last year – but it’s also getting bigger.

Earlier this month, we released our top Business Ideas for 2022, where we highlighted the Wellbeing industry as one of the most exciting areas of new growth this year.

The success is due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a significant impact on people’s behaviour and attitudes to self-care.

As a result, hundreds of new businesses are popping up around the country, all centred on the goal of getting people more knowledgeable and involved with their personal health.

Amongst those firms that are paving the way is the thriving vitamin startup YourZooki, one of many new wellness companies that are offering alternative wellness products based on improving a customer’s experience, as well as their overall health.

We spoke to Marcus Mollinga, co-founder of Startups 100 company YourZooki, to learn more about his experiences navigating the space, the challenges he and co-founder Jack Morrison have faced and the opportunities they’re most excited about.

Off to a healthy start

YourZooki is Marcus’ brainchild. He founded the company having had a personal interest in the wellbeing industry from an early age. After a knee injury playing rugby, he was told to take fish oil tablets – something he immediately had issues with.

“They’re really good for you but no one likes taking them,” said Marcus. “The basic concept of my idea was – make it taste nice, and more people will take it religiously everyday.”

Marcus took the idea to his friend Jack. Despite graduating from university with a job offer at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, he was convinced to join Zooki and became co-founder.

Together, they built from Marcus’ original idea and began to manufacture Omega 3 Zooki, a product they still stock today. It’s a creamy, yoghurt-based concoction. One teaspoon holds the same amount of Omega 3 as 2-3 fish oil capsules.

YourZooki

Their first retail listing was John Bell & Croyden in 2019, famous in London for being the Queen’s pharmacy.

“We’ve always focused on one objective,” said Marcus. “We wanted to become the best selling brand in that pharmacy, so Jack moved to London and slept on a friend’s sofa.

“He sampled with customers in the shop all day, and within a month we were the best-selling vitamin product in John Bell & Croyden. Soon we were supplying Selfridges, then Harrods, then Holland and Barrett’s 700 UK stores.”

Last year, they took their first external investment round, a small equity stake. They began to sell internationally whilst, in the background, Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc.

Marcus told us, “We spent a fortune on freight. It was a big risk. But those customers that bought from us have now come back, and we’ve actually managed to triple in size.

“It’s a really exciting place to be able to get to since starting out at our dining room table.”

The sector that’s fighting fit

Since the first UK Covid-19 lockdown was announced in March 2020, consumers have increasingly taken their health into their own hands.

“The market is very exciting,” said Marcus. “Covid-19 has educated more people on the importance of keeping your immune strength up. People are going to the gym more, they’re taking more supplements, eating healthier – the market as a whole is growing”,

It’s also pivoting. Wellbeing businesses are moving away from pills and supplements that can make you look good. Instead, the focus has shifted towards using scientifically-backed data to manufacture products that help you to feel, and live, better.

As Marcus told us, the majority of this market used to be about pills, powders and capsules that were all usually made by the same manufacturers. All, as he described, “boring products that have been around for decades.”

Zooki’s huge product range is hoping to shake up the recipe and get consumers excited about the vitamins and supplements they’re taking.

It covers lots of wellbeing improvements, including immunity booster packs, which are all available in tasty, on-the-go soft gel sachets. All are also biodegradable, and therefore easier for customers to consume.

This level of innovation has not come easily. Before Jack and Marcus launched their first product, they initially spent two years developing it and the concept. They worked with a group of scientists with a combined 60-years experience between them.

“We are completely product focussed,” Marcus said firmly. “We always said: if it tastes good, and it works, people will use it.”

Keeping up with the competition

YourZooki is certainly proof of that theory. Zooki’s online sales have rocketed by over 430% since April 2020, with over 315% growth in their monthly subscription model. This has helped to triple their revenue, and in 2021 it almost doubled again.

Marcus told Startups that last year, the firm was manufacturing close to a million sachets per week to keep up with the demand.

Watermelon YourZooki

But such incredible market growth has also brought more competition into the ring. Consumers now have more choice in the types of products and services they buy and the way they buy them – meaning companies have to work a lot harder to acquire brand loyalty.

“If you’re setting up a product-based wellbeing brand, you need to ensure you are designing and developing a product that genuinely works,” said Marcus. “It’s easy to sell a product once, it’s much harder to sell it multiple times. You want to sell something that has longevity, and that the customer takes repeatedly.”

YourZooki takes its customer feedback seriously, religiously reading reviews and emails to keep on top of how their brand is being received by their audience.

Their response also plays a role in what direction YourZooki takes itself – particularly the business’ product design and innovation processes.

“Initially, we were ingredient-led,” Marcus recalled. “It was all about looking at each vitamin, and then asking: what is the best product based on these ingredients? But recently we launched our first problem-led product, targeting hair growth.”

Marcus explains that the reasoning for this shift in focus is partly based on personalisation. Consumers are looking for products that speak directly to their own specific needs and requirements. But another reason is teaching.

“It’s easier for consumers to understand,” Marcus told us. “For example, instead of a Vitamin D product, it’s now a product that strengthens bones.

“The majority of customers don’t understand the benefits that more complex ingredient combinations can give them. It’s all about removing those barriers to education.”

Learning to sell

Science-backed, innovative products can often be esoteric. Brand packaging can feature complicated lists of ingredients and hard-to-understand jargon.

In fact, getting consumers to understand its products is one of Zooki’s key considerations – largely because of the business’s patented manufacturing technology, lipo-shield.

The process involves encapsulating ingredients like Vitamin C with lipids to make them more biodegradable. Zooki is also applying that same technology to other ingredients, such as collagen and Vitamin D.

To combat the issue, YourZooki has hired internal nutritionists, who travel to Zooki’s suppliers and communicate the brand’s mission directly to consumers.

“Our nutritionists will hold a class to talk about specialist things and diet and exercise, menopause, staying healthy as we age.

“That’s not necessarily selling the product, it’s just educating customers and encouraging them to make their own decisions.”

YourZooki Turmeric

The process can be expensive, and YourZooki has invested a lot in being what it calls ‘experience-led'.

It recently partnered with national fitness chain David Lloyd Clubs, and will be holding events across its 100 gyms in 2022. The company’s representatives will inform gum users on the benefits of liquids compared to capsules, and encourage them to sample its product range.

“What the pills industry doesn’t have is a sticky customer,” Marcus told us. “Our business model is that we do a lot of face to face interactions, in London, Harrods, WholeFoods, and host popups with customers to sample our products.

“When we acquire a customer, the cost is likely higher but the lifetime value is much higher, because they stick.”

Looking well-ahead

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that physical and mental health will remain a priority for millions of people across the globe for a long time to come. Wellness is here to stay.

Consumers across the UK are planning to increase their spending on personal health, appearance, fitness, and more – part of the reason we ranked it as one of our top Business Trends in 2022.

“The future of the wellbeing industry is very bright and it’s a very exciting industry to be in,” Marcus said. “That being said, it’s changed a lot over the past five years. There’s lots of new brands, so startups have to be innovative and offer something truly different to the market.”

YourZooki has gotten off to an impressive start to the year. The firm has just signed its first deal with a major grocery retail chain, and the main focus of the business is now online growth.

Now, Marcus and Jack want to take advantage of the boom in ecommerce, and are working to increase its recurring subscription revenue.

“Wellbeing is a really scalable industry,” Marcus said. “There’s currently a lot of investment into improving products and you can scale much faster than in any other industry.”

All being well, they’re going to do exactly that.

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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