I’ve written extensively about the importance of delivering a better experience than incumbent offerings. Take Casper Sleep. Through its innovative model, the company made the mattress-buying process much more palatable for consumers.
Similarly, Warby Parker made it sexy to buy glasses online. It also made the experience much more convenient with its home try-on kit and Prescription Check app. Meanwhile, Keeps and Hims made men’s health products more accessible—and much less painful and awkward—with their direct-to-consumer models.
Aaptiv has made remote personal training more affordable, and more effective with its audio differentiation. And Brilliant has changed the bike-buying experience forever.
While these delivery models are all key parts of the experience, the importance of offering a best-in-class product cannot be overlooked. A business cannot thrive unless it offers a great product—regardless of how convenient the customer experience is. Here are a few “best-in-class” providers in the health & wellness sector.
Leading Brands in Protein & Supplements
I’m fortunate to be advising many successful wellness companies that launched in response to a lack of alternatives available to founders with allergies and intolerances. To this end, it should come as little surprise that many of the best-in-class products also happen to be the cleanest.
As its name suggests, OWYN (Only What You Need) offers a cleaner vegan protein than competing products. The brand is predicated on the founders’ intolerance to additives and allergens, yet—similar to Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—the company caters not just to vegans, but to a broad group of consumers who are simply looking to clean up their nutrition. What’s more impressive is that OWYN is able to deliver a truly clean, great-tasting product with only 4 grams of sugar. The product also lacks the traditional sugar alcohols that accompany low-sugar and sugar-free protein supplements, which can be detrimental to the digestive system.
It makes sense that the consortium (Halen Brands)—led by Clearlake Capital—acquired OWYN in March 2017. The buyer saw the unique opportunity ahead of OWYN, despite the company being pre-revenue at the time of acquisition.
Vega Protein was another leading vegan protein brand. It was acquired in June 2015 by WhiteWave Foods, which Danone went on to acquire for $10 billion the following year. The issue with Vega, however, was that a 2018 study claimed it contained concerning levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, as well as toxins like BPA.
In speaking with leading experts in the wellness sector—both domestically and abroad—I’ve come across another top, clean protein and supplement brand: PranaOn. The Australian platform is broader than OWYN in the way of providing all-natural products and supplements across a range of wellness categories.
PranaOn and Neat Nutrition (based in the UK) have become trusted platforms first, and leading product brands second. The companies have amassed a loyal following of athletes and other influencers, which has driven widespread adoption. They have since enjoyed traditional trickle-down effects as the products moved from early adopters to mainstream consumers who want to be just like the fittest, healthiest people they follow in sports and on social media.
Leading Brands in Gear & Apparel
While direct-to-consumer models paired with strategic wholesale and distribution have helped, Roka and Reigning Champ have set themselves apart with top-quality products.
Roka was born out of the founders’ frustration with the expensive wetsuits they bought while training for a triathlon. Former swimmers, the founders tinkered around in an Austin, Texas garage to create a better wetsuit. They started selling swim gear in 2013, and have since added eyewear and other apparel to their product line.
The founders knew they needed to offer a superior product for their young company to gain traction among top athletes. Since Roka’s launch, its athletes have won over a dozen world titles and been instrumental in the design of its patented, award-winning products. This has created a virtuous cycle of “semi-outsourced” product development and improvement for the company, which has helped Roka stay on top.
It’s also a major reason why Roka has raised over $40 million in funding to date. The company was on track to turn a profit in 2017.
On a separate note, Reigning Champ is a Canadian company that started designing athleisure before it became a trend.
It all started in Japan, where founder Craig Atkinson cut his teeth importing vintage menswear for heritage-crazed customers. He then returned to Vancouver to set up his own apparel-manufacturing business. The attention to detail he picked up overseas earned him big-name clients like cult skateboarding brand Supreme and premium outerwear outfitter Arc’teryx, which appreciated his efforts involving custom knitwear fabrics.
After starting his own brand, Atkinson delivered a product line that can’t be ignored. With Reigning Champ, he has added a level of integrity to once basic sweatshirts, sweatpants, and tees, and created a more dignified ethos of casual dressing that is infiltrating the collections of dressier, designer labels.
Reigning Champ includes details such as flatlock seams and bar tacks—elements that may go unnoticed by the average customer—that add depth and longevity to a seemingly simple crewneck.
The brand’s list of collaborators is growing at a rapid pace, and includes Club Monaco, Converse, New Balance, J. Crew, and New Era. Adidas has been a major partner for years, highlighted by Karlie Kloss being the face of Adidas Athletics x Reigning Champ’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Next up is a Tokyo flagship store opening early in 2019.
Similar to brands like Roka, NoBull, and Rhone, Reigning Champ has become too powerful to be ignored. The same can be said for Bandier, Carbon38, and others. Consumers saw these companies as unique and best-in-class, and collaborators, customers, and celebrities/athletes soon lined up.
These brands offer an unbeatable combination of convenience, authenticity, and quality.