For as long as I can remember, I’ve scrutinized everything I put in my body.

Many brands play off the saying “you are what you eat.” I couldn’t agree more.

A number of direct-to-consumer brands are capitalizing on the growing demand from (mainly) millennials for cleaner products that are free of additives and chemicals. These companies can be found throughout the health & wellness sector, most notably in spaces like beauty, nutrition, and sports.

A key milestone for this sector was Unilever’s $700 million acquisition of Seventh Generation back in 2016. What I found most impressive about that transaction was that Seventh Generation negotiated an unusual clause in its deal that ensured Unilever would protect the target’s core mission and purpose.

This is all part of a broader consumer movement toward focusing on what we are putting in, on, and around our bodies. More than ever before, consumers are looking to build trusted relationships with their favorite brands.

As a result, next-gen “clean” brands are winning not only by relying on their offerings, but by touting their products as major improvements over the artificial incumbents.

Nutritional Products that Are Actually Clean

Aloha is a wellness-driven food company that produces protein snack bars, chocolates, elixirs, nut-and-fruit packs, whole-food powders, vitamin supplements, and more. The company promotes its products as clean and pure, without any additives or chemicals.

What sets Aloha apart is that it moves beyond traditional clean-eating branding, and has essentially debunked prior notions of what’s truly healthy. The company believes former nutrition guidelines are somewhat off-base because, for example, our soil is no longer as good as it used to be.

Aloha’s growth has been spurred by its now-omnichannel presence, facilitated by a partnership with Target that brought Aloha products to 1,800 stores across the country.

This partnership with Target validates Aloha’s intent to introduce healthy living to the masses by making its products available to a wider and more diverse customer base. Today clean products are eating their way downstream, for a change.

In short, while most players in the wellness industry target more affluent customers, Aloha’s placement in Target reveals that clean brands can appeal to both upmarket and downmarket buyers.

And while this sector is becoming increasingly crowded with new and legacy competitors, what sets Aloha and others apart is a new standard of what’s truly clean. Most of the products out there claiming to be healthy actually aren’t. They’re loaded with sugar and chemicals.

Peace of Mind from Sports Drinks

As the strength and conditioning coach for my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, Matt Nichol was so concerned about feeding his hockey players traditional supplements full of unsavory ingredients that he came up with his own nutrition product: BioSteel.

Brands like Quest Nutrition and Vega have similarly portrayed themselves as high-protein, sugar-free, or viable plant-based alternatives. However, many of Quest’s “exciting” flavors are full of sugar alcohols that—despite keeping the sugar count low—can be detrimental to the digestive system.

After more than a decade of refining his formula, Nichol has seen BioSteel become the preferred sports drink of some of the top names in sports. Unlike high-sugar alternatives such as Gatorade, BioSteel does not contain any preservatives, additives, or unnatural coloring.

Nichol was inspired to create BioSteel after hearing the NHL was implementing a league-wide anti-doping program. He was never completely at ease with the use of prior supplements, and realized that he bore a degree of personal liability because he too was doling out supplements to his players.

Before the launch of this program, not a single supplement manufacturer provided sufficient evidence that its products were in fact free of banned supplements.

But eventually, BioSteel leveraged a network of scientists to formulate its product, and convinced players to start reaching for its drink. Only then could Nichol prove the products he gave his players were safe.

Cleanliness in Beauty & Personal Care

Kosås, Youth to the People, and W3ll People are three clean-oriented indie beauty brands that received funding in 2018. Likeminded retailers such as Credo and Ayla have been key enablers of these young companies.

In the case of Kosås, the company complemented its clean ingredients with high-performance formulas. Its lipsticks are long-wearing, whisper-light, and non-waxy, and the palettes are universally flattering. Ultimately, Kosås’ products have gained traction even among non-makeup-savvy consumers.

Its ethos of universally flattering makeup helped the company double its revenue from 2016 to 2017 without outside investors. With its most recent round of investment, Kosås aims to expand its international distribution into the UK, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.

Similarly, the founders of Lola refused to accept the status quo in menstrual health. Before Lola blazed a trail, the organic tampon market was nowhere near as crowded as it is today. Established players (i.e., the Honest Company) and smaller newcomers (i.e., Cora) have capitalized on a surge of interest in improved, natural period products.

With the launch of Sex by Lola—a line of “natural” latex condoms, lubricants, and cleansing wipes—Lola is now tackling a new segment of the reproductive health & wellness market. The parallels between the sexual health and menstrual care categories were obvious in that the status quo has simply been accepted.

And Sex by Lola also offers a focus on natural ingredients. Lola’s tampons and pads are made with 100% organic cotton, and the company is highlighting the fact that its condoms are made without any unnecessary additives.

For years, high-touch categories in the health & wellness sector were marked by consumers and brands that were resigned to tradition. Now, the bar is continually being raised as to what really constitutes clean living.