Wellness trends for 2021

Wellness trends for 2021

We asked freelance journalist Sabi Phagura for her insights on the UK wellness industry and trends for 2021:

The health and wellness industry encompasses all activities which promote physical and mental wellbeing. This includes everything from yoga to meditation, fat-loss to nutrition, self-care to skin-care, and embracing nature and mindfulness. Amid the Covid-19 global pandemic, health and wellness have become more important than ever before. And as we’re still dealing with the ricocheting effect from the last 14 months, we’re all in need of a good dose of self-care. With increased health consciousness fueling the wellness industry into overdrive let’s take a look at the wellness trends we are seeing in 2021.  

The great outdoors   

One of the positives to emerge from the pandemic is our renewed appreciation of the great outdoors. With very little else to do, heading out into nature became a great escape during the coronavirus crisis for many. People who were staying at home and whose gyms were closed took their exercise outdoors. Activities such as walking, hiking and cycling all became more popular and parks and outdoor spaces were full of people taking their daily exercise as encouraged by the UK government. And despite lockdown measures easing somewhat in 2021, that trend and love for the outdoors is set to continue with people finding ways to spend as much time as possible becoming at one with nature. 

Wellness is a journey and not a quick fix and brands entering the UK market need to wise up to that. Short-lived fixes just don’t survive here and that’s why brands like the Power Plate never really took off as customers in the UK can see through fads quickly. 

Staycations and the pursuit of outdoor sports 

Responsible travel has been making its mark on the travel industry for a few years now but thanks to the pandemic this trend is pivoting fast. Staycations are seeing a boom this year with many people choosing (or forced to do so due to the current climate) to stay in the country for their annual holidays. Glamping, wild swimming retreats, self-guided cycling and walking holidays, digital detox retreats and stand-up paddleboarding are all enjoying a resurgence as we try to replicate holiday activities abroad. 

I spoke to Joe Thwaites of Loco SUP, a business that provides paddleboards in the North East of England who told me that since the lockdown they’ve experienced record sales and are struggling to meet the demand for boards in 2021. Meanwhile, Alice Darby of Home Farm Glamping in Elstree, Hertfordshire, where I was fortunate enough to stay in April, informed me their campsite was fully booked for the rest of the summer. 

The most successful wellness brands are those that can enrich peoples’ lives so they need to be benefit-driven rather than product-focused. That’s why staycations are proving popular as they offer consumers an escape which will enrich them both mentally and physically long after the staycation is over. 

The power of yoga  

There’s no doubt there’s been a massive shift in the fitness world from an emphasis on calorie burn and weight loss to a more holistic approach to wellness and it’s here to stay. Given the pandemic forced gym doors to shut, people started to rethink their health and wellness giving rise to a new wave of trainers who tried to bridge that gap. The at-home workout market exploded as we took refuge in our homes as lockdown kicked in but minimal is key. According to ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, wearable tech such as the Fitbit and free weights were some of the most popular trends in 2020 and that is here to stay. Devices are a great way to keep tabs on your fitness and stay on track. We’re a nation obsessed with data with Samsung reporting sales of wearable devices growing by 30 per cent last year. 

But simplicity is key. Trainers such as UK fitness guru Joe Wicks enabled people to work out from the comfort of their home and focus on things like mobility and mental health with very little equipment needed. Over the summer lockdown in 2020, Wicks streamed week-day workouts which clocked over 80 million views. In recognition for keeping the nation moving, he even made it on the Queen’s 2020 honours list.   

This refreshing take on movement also crossed over to yoga at the start of the pandemic. During these uncertain and anxious times which proved a drain on our energy levels, yoga offered much-needed calm and balance for the mind, body and soul. Undoubtedly yoga helped countless people to take a break from worrying about the future and tune deeper into themselves bringing about mental and physical clarity as well as raising spirits. 

According to a report by ClassPass, yoga hit the top digital at-workout of the year with a 25 per cent increase in uptake. Pilates, stretching and meditation also rose in popularity with odes to the activities appearing on social media. Amber Fidler who runs Yoga Lounge Bournemouth began streaming live Zoom videos for clients to continue their practice at home throughout the lockdown She told me it was one of the positives to emerge from the pandemic as it enabled new customers from across the UK to take part in the classes. With the studio now open, Amber will continue to offer the live classes so practitioners can continue their workouts from wherever they live.  

Unlike our US cousins across the pond who favour hardcore fancy workouts like bootcamps weightlifting and animal flow movements, people in the UK prefer a gentler more natural and fun way approach to fitness.

 According to marketing agency Oglivy, the pursuit of wellness is shifting for both companies and individuals. Brands need to really understand more about real people’s lives and less about the trends. They need to speak to people and have a better understanding of their needs. One of the ways to better understand consumers is by diving into the community you’re targeting and see what they are saying online. It’s no wonder wellness influencers are paving the way as being honest and transparent when they are prompting products or services. People relate to real people. Consumers are savvy to brands simply repeating buzzwords of the wellness industry in a bid to sell products, services to boost sales. Rather than using cliches speak directly to your customers in a relatable and authentic tone to build trust. And don’t forget to keep up with the pace of change in order to be successful in an ever-moving modern world. The key drivers for success will offer flexible solutions such as excellent customer service and a personal touch.  

Mindful drinking  

When the UK began its first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, many people saw this as a free ticket to consume alcohol whenever they fancied it. It’s no surprise then that figures from the Office of National Statistics showed a 20 per cent rise in deaths directly caused by misuse of alcohol in 2020 compared to the previous year. Thankfully many of us are increasingly making more conscious choices when it comes to booze and we are becoming ‘sober curious’ It may sound like a buzzword but cutting back or abstaining from alcohol completely is a real movement that is gathering pace. 

A quick search of the hashtag “sober curious” on Instagram yields over 205,000 posts. And as people become more mindful about their alcohol choices, the alcohol-free drinks market is also gaining momentum. Alex Carlton, the founder of STRYKK the non-alcoholic spirits brand, said people are becoming more dialled into what they are consuming and are making a conscious effort not to repeat the habits of lockdown when excessive alcohol consumption was rife. Pubs and restaurants are also addressing the sober movement by stocking a wide range of alcohol-free beverages. And while non-alcoholic drinks are enjoying a surge in the UK, probiotic gut-friendly drinks are slow in gaining momentum. US brands like Luna Bay and Kombrewcha are popular there but haven’t really taken off in the UK. It’s proof that we don’t always follow trends in other countries. 

Cooking from scratch  

An increasing number of people are looking for ways to eat a more healthy and balanced diet. Naturally, the closure of restaurants and cafés across the country meant Brits cooked more in lockdown than ever before. Perhaps motivated by the higher risk of complications and fatality posed by Covid-19, it’s led people to experiment in the kitchen. Cooking from scratch helps us to have greater control over the ingredients and preparation methods used compared to ready meals and fast food.

According to market intelligence agency Mintel, 37 per cent of people reported saying eating immunity-boosting foods became more of a priority since the start of lockdown. Regenerative eating is also something that is taking on a life of its own this year. According to the latest GDP figures, the nation wants to see more emphasis placed on health and wellbeing rather than the economy, to improve people’s quality of life during and beyond lockdown. 

People in the UK are turning away from restrictive diets especially those that demonise food groups such as carbohydrates. And there’s certainly a shift from brands that offer low fat, diet and sugar free foods in favour of upcycling foods which means wonky vegetables are not shunned. 

It’s imperative companies wishing to break into the UK market are transparent and honest about where the food comes, is responsibly sourced and contains as few preservatives as possible. Consumers want their food to be environmentally friendly, organic and non-GMO and brands that donate proceeds to important social movements are championed. It’s important to foster a sense of community among your customers. So, if your brand is doing something positive for the collective good of the whole community, make it clear on your website the social causes you are supporting and highlight the communities that have benefited as a result. By shifting the focus from ‘my wellness’ to ‘our wellness’ customers are likely to be far more trusting of a brand.

Sabi Phagura has over 23 years of experience working in print, broadcasting and online at the national level in the UK. She has worked as a reporter, broadcast journalist, video journalist, and editor working on a number of high profile news stories for newspapers including The Mail on Sunday, Sunday Mirror, The Sun, Daily Express as well as BBC, ITV and Sky News. Eleven years ago she started to specialise in health, fitness, travel and lifestyle. In addition, she qualified as a fitness instructor and has accrued 10 years of experience teaching various exercise classes on an ad-hoc basis. She regularly offers her expertise on all things health, fitness and wellbeing for a number of publications in print and online.
Sabi Phagura

Sabi has spent over 23 years as a print, broadcast and online journalist  including working as a reporter, broadcast and video journalist and editor  for newspapers including The Mail on Sunday, The Sun, Sunday Mirror, The Sun as well as BBC, ITV and Sky News.  Sabi now specialises in health, fitness, travel and lifestyle.