United Kingdom

The entrepreneurs making a profit from Dry Veganuary

No booze, no meat. If there are two things that have defined the start of 2020, it's the trend for people to have am alcohol-free month and try going vegan.

No marketing types have yet tried to combine the two into the phrase Dry Veganuary, but that surely cannot be far off.

What is clear though from businesses big and small is that the trend for having some time off drinking or trying a plant-based diet can be a rewarding line of business. Jayna Rana spoke to entrepreneurs tapping into that.

According to YouGov, the most popular resolutions in the past have often focused on health, such as taking on more exercise, losing weight and having a healthier diet

Taking up a new sport or hobby, going vegan or reducing your alcohol intake; these are all common lifestyle changes people tend to make at the turn of the year.

According to a recent YouGov poll, 27 per cent of Britons made New Year's resolutions for 2020 with 47 per cent aiming to exercise more, 44 per cent hoping to lose weight and 41 per cent trying to eat more healthily the most popular. 

Non-profit organisation Veganuary said it had registered 350,000 people to participate this year - a new record. And charity Alcohol Change UK revealed that over four million people signed up to the Dry January challenge last year with similar numbers expected for this year. 

Whether or not we keep our resolutions up long-term, companies operating in these areas play on our tendency to use January as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. 

Based on the resolutions that are most commonly used, it's no surprise that food and drink producers and sport and fitness businesses are the types of firms that really come into their own at this time of year but other, more niche businesses are also jumping on the bandwagon. 

Meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free

Scott and Karris McCullock founded vegan subscription box service TheVeganKind seven years ago and have worked closely with the team behind Veganuary. 

This year, the pair allocated more marketing budget in January because of the steep increase in the number of people searching online for vegan-related topics.

They said: 'We have been going since 2013, when Veganuary also kicked off, and we have definitely seen a stepped increase in veganism each year due to the campaign. 

'Each year Google Trends shows a big spike in searches for vegan-related topics. The Veganuary campaign gives new focus to veganism, so January for TheVeganKind does show a continued spike in sales, leading on from a very busy December.'

The couple also run sister business TheVeganKind Supermarket, a online vegan store, which saw its revenue grow by 100 per cent last year. On top of this, turnover to date for the wider company is more than £5million with £2.5million of that accounting for 2019 alone.

TheVeganKind founders Scott and Karris McCulloch said the Veganuary campaign 'gives new focus to veganism', so January shows a spike in sales for their business every year

Another business profiting from the vegan movement is BOL, founded by Paul Brown. He took the decision in 2017 to cut meat and fish from his product range and go 100 per cent plant-based. This effectively halved the size of the business overnight but since then, response has only grown as more people are willing to give veganism a go.

He said: 'We now have a greater understanding as a society that the industrialisation of the food system is not only an inefficient way for us to get our nutrition, but it’s also negatively impacting our health and that of the entire planet too. 

'The good news is that we now know this, and are arguably the last generation that can reverse these negative impacts whilst we still have time.' 

Brown said sales this month are on track to be at least 65 per cent higher than January last year, as he makes the most of the idea of a 'new beginning'.

'We’re currently in the middle of our biggest ever nationwide campaign, plastering "veg art" on billboards across the UK’s major cities and on the London Underground,' he added. 

Gluten-free food company Delicious Alchemy, run by Emma Killilea, has also made the most of this time of year, on a smaller scale but with just as big an impact. 

It's using social media to recruit 'alchemists' - food-focused influencers who enjoy their products and can help promote them on their own channels.

Killilea said: 'January is a hugely exciting time of the year to be selling free-from products. There is always a surge in interest from consumers looking to make a healthy start to the new year after Christmas festivities.'

Health and happiness 

For those attempting to cut - or at least cut down - their alcohol intake, world food subscription box service Feast Box teamed up with soft drinks brands Robinsons and 7Up Free which conducted their own research to coincide with Dry January.

The report found a third of the nation (32 per cent) have attempted Dry January in the past, but have not managed to complete the whole month, while the second week in January is the most common week for people taking part to start drinking alcohol again.

It also found a lack of drink inspiration was the top reason for people giving up. Soft drink boredom at meal times also ranked high, with 16 percent finding Dry January too difficult due to not finding enough non-alcohol drink options available to enjoy with food. 

Studies like this can help get the conversation while raising awareness and promoting a product and service - in this case, Feast Box and Robinsons' new fruit cordial range.

Feast Box founder Jyoti Patel said: 'With drink boredom and a lack of inspiration being a big part of why many Brits don’t succeed at Dry January, we’re excited to be able to provide our curated food and drink pairing experience throughout the whole month.' 

Self-care 

As mental health awareness and the #selfcare movement has increased in recent years, so have the number of businesses focusing on this ethos. One example is Pollen, a producer of cannabidiol (CBD) infused products.

Experts say CBD doesn't create a 'high' effect as many presume, but rather boosts energy, mood and helps relieve stress. After being legal in the US for some time (outside of medicinal usage), 2019 saw the legalisation of CBD products in the UK and in turn, an immediate flood of companies to the market.

 This whole 'New Year, New Me' narrative is flawed – I believe more in 'New Year, Still Me'.                                     - Melanie Goldsmith, Pollen

Pollen co-founder Melanie Goldsmith, who also runs alcoholic confectionery company Smith & Sinclair, said she noticed the trend in the US and so started researching and testing different products to prepare for its eventual release in the UK. 

The brand officially launched at the start of 2020. Goldsmith said: 'I guess January just feels like the opportunity for a fresh start – time to reset and recalibrate and make some resolutions to carry through into the new year. 

'However it’s well known that a huge percentage of us give up on those "changes" well before the month is over. This whole "New Year, New Me" narrative is flawed – I believe more in "New Year, Still Me" and being realistic about what you can do to make yourself healthier and happier in the long term.'

Goldsmith said this is best done through making a small change that could slide into life as easily as making tea in the morning, rather than requiring a two-week yoga retreat. 

'We developed Pollen to make sure it could do just that.  Little changes not huge alterations.' 

Three Wise Monkeys in Scotland is currently on track to grow 30 per cent up on 2018/2019

Shaping up to be a good year

Unsurprisingly, getting fit is often at the top of many people's goals, but the way they plan on doing that can vary. While some may join their local gym, others may take up a new sport or fitness regime that is slightly more unusual, pushes them that bit harder or doesn't feel (at least mentally) like a workout at all.

Scottish business Three Wise Monkeys is an indoor climbing centre in Fort William, which is suitable for people of all ages, genders and abilities and has more emphasis on enjoyment than exercise.

Founder Oliver Millington said improving fitness and well being is often at the top of the list of new year resolutions, and indoor climbing is a fun and alternative way to achieve this.

He said: 'The brilliant thing about climbing is that you get the same benefits as the gym but it doesn’t feel like you’re exercising. When you go climbing it’s like going back to an adventure playground as a kid - that’s what gets people hooked! Fitness is just an accidental by-product.'

The business is already on track to grow by 30 per cent on 2018/19 and started a social media marketing campaign at the start of this year targeting those who normally avoid the gym in January because it gets so busy.

It is also anticipating more demand and putting together marketing strategies as people get excited for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics.

Personal trainer Zindzi McKinlay (right) said this time of year is usually her busiest as a lot of people want to 'hit their reset button to better themselves'

Meanwhile, self-employed personal trainer and founder of London-based hip-hop pilates class Dripset, Zindzi McKinlay, said she is also busiest at this time of year.

'People feel that starting a new year is like hitting a reset button to better themselves and start again if they feel like they have fallen off the wagon at some point in the year, whether that's related to dieting, selfcare, or any other general health and fitness goals,' she said.

She believes the start of the year is great for small businesses to advertise their services because the target group for potential customers expands as people are more willing to try new things.

She added: 'You get a lot of first-timers who want to change for the better, and so it's a good time for businesses that target those kinds of people to really prove their value.'  

How can YOU profit from the hype? 

Between 2008 and 2018, gym memberships in the US grew by 37 per cent. Meanwhile, in 2019, memberships in the UK broke the 10million market, meaning one in every seven people is currently a member of a gym.

With January being the peak month for new gym memberships, and new budget-friendly gym brands and schemes popping up more often, it might be worth investing - either directly or through an investment fund or trust - in the trend as it appears to grow ever faster.

Craig Bonthron and Neil Goddin, co-managers of the Kames Global Sustainable Equity fund look at the fitness stocks they hold and believe will help get your finances in shape.

Basic Fit

Goddin says: 'European gym group Basic Fit offers a low-priced gym format, with market share just below 10 per cent. 

'The company is run by founder and former tennis player Rene Moos, and has clubs spanning Holland, Belgium, France and Spain - countries which are underpenetrated versus the UK - with high growth expected in latter two countries. 

'Like other gym franchises, Basic Fit is currently benefiting from lower rents due to problems suffered by bricks and mortar retail.'

Planet Fitness

Bonthron says: 'US gym group Planet Fitness is a disruptive low-price gym, offering prices starting at around $10, much lower than its competitors. 

'The group is targeting the 80 per cent of Americans who don't go to the gym, particularly focusing on increasing female membership and attracting those low in confidence.

'The gyms offer 'No Judgement Zones' and 'No Gymtimidation' messaging in its sites as it seeks to get away from the old image of a meathead throwing weights around.'

Technogym

Bonthron adds: 'Like seemingly all successful businesses (think Amazon, for example), Technogym started life in someone's garage and grew under the passion and drive of a visionary leader. 

'Today the company, which manufactures a full range of fitness equipment from treadmills and static bikes to weights machines and benches, is well-run with high returns on invested capital, an enduring brand and attractive opportunities to continue to grow in markets including the US and China. 

'The company has also recently launched its own direct to consumer service and has a current market cap sitting at around half of the estimated value of the recently floated Peloton suggesting there is plenty of opportunity for further growth at current levels.'