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Is the wellness industry in the Middle East witnessing a healthy growth?
From calorie diet plan to self-care subscription boxes, people are increasingly trying to find a balance
Could a personalized diet plan be the answer to refreshing sleep, a healthy body, and a happy mind? Well, these are just some of the promises health and wellness providers offer. Whether we are being told by Gwyneth Paltrow or Instagram influencers, dietary advice has been a fad for decades, swinging from the low-fat, high-carb guidance to the low-carb or intermittent fasting diets recommended more recently.
Now, we have apps matching people with meals suited to their dietary preferences by allowing users to filter for required calorie intake, macronutrient ratio, avoidances, and more. Then some promise to test how your body responds to different foods and teach you to eat the right ones. Chia and acai bowls and spirulina shots included.
The modern iteration of health and wellness piggybacks on the multibillion-dollar health and wellness industry. The diets, the cleanses, the retreats, and the life hacks align with this.
There are now “holistically upgraded” hotels offering “health and wellbeing weekends.” Employers can buy corporate packages for “workplace wellness.” Meanwhile, the personalized nutrition app phenomenon has reached epic proportions.
The goal, they claim, is better long-term health in a region with one of the highest obesity and diabetes levels in the world.
But why do people happily tune into the ideology of health and wellness?
“Increasingly, we’re becoming aware of the falsehoods surrounding nutrition and the importance of nutrition on health, well-being, and performance. Health and wellness services are out-competing others in the highly competitive F&B market,” says Andreas L. Borgmann, Founder and CEO of Kcal World, one of the biggest meal-delivery plans in the region. “Our year-on-year growth has been 15 to 25%.”
Prompted by a personal health problem and the need for a healthy diet, Amr Kinawy co-founded MyEatPal, a healthy delivery aggregator that matches people with meals suited to their dietary preferences. Its target segment is those with food limitations, specific dietary preferences, or healthy/specific eating requirements.
Less than a year old, MyEatPal’s subscribers are doubling month-over-month, says Kinawy. “We can see high user demand; people are hungry for what we are building, and the demand is overwhelming. We have started in Dubai and will soon expand in the GCC.”
Despite the inflation, he adds that people are understanding and rearranging their priorities and beginning to change their lifestyles.
It’s fair to say health and wellness is one of the great post-pandemic winners.
There are many startups in health, fitness, nutrition, and stress management, including Vezeeta, Sprout, Esaal, Count’d, Tuhoon, Fitbar, and EatClean.
Small wonder, then, the wellness market in the Middle East is estimated at over $108 billion. The UAE’s online health and fitness market is forecast to contribute $36.5 million in 2025. The industry could reach almost $7 trillion globally by 2025.
Rather than healthy food being straightforward (eat a variety of foods, with lots of vegetables and little processed stuff), the industry is presented as complex, difficult to achieve correctly, and best when all variables of personal lifestyle are taken into account.
“The realm of healthy food may appear straightforward, but it entails far more than the mere act of cooking and consuming. With the introduction of numerous variables such as individuals’ dietary preferences and the involvement of third-party delivery aggregators, the process has become more complex,” says Borgmann.
“The industry is continuously evolving to enhance how food-based businesses can deliver high-quality food in a convenient form, all in a timely manner. So it’s the challenges spurring some of the most interesting innovations in the industry,” adds Borgmann.
Factors such as the growing awareness of quality, evolving lifestyles, and the increasing incidence of food-related diseases will continue to drive the growth of the health and wellness market in the region, according to experts.
PERSONALIZATION IS KEY
While there is no broad agreement in food science about anything, all agree personalization is key as certain market segments become more saturated.
“We spotted a new priority in people’s lifestyles and behavior, especially for those whose diets give them some sort of limitations when it comes to the variety of options, which inspired us to tap into the market with this new concept,” says Kinawy.
Meanwhile, self-care seems to mean anything and everything: if an activity (or inactivity) makes you feel better, in body or mind, then it’s self-care. It could be yoga or cooking, or simply turning off the news.
From juice cleanses to yoga workshops, breezy fixes in pastel-colored packages of tempting goods tailored to your needs can arrive at your door each month. In the region, self-care subscription shopping services have become a staple.
There too, personalization is the key as every person has a different lifestyle, says Akansha Maheshwari, founder of Wooyou, a subscription box service that offers customized self-care routines to its subscribers.
“Our subscribers can choose what they want to see in their Wooyou Box every season. No two boxes are the same. Each box is custom-tailored to our subscribers’ needs and likes,” she adds.
“Being a working woman myself and after talking to several of my friends, I have realized that most women find it hard to find time for self-care. Therefore we curate our boxes covering all aspects of self-care, including skincare, body care, therapeutic journals, healthy snacks, and lifestyle accessories.
Companies use emerging technologies to capture multiple data points related to their customers’ preferences to build their core matching algorithm.
At the end of the day, having a customer-focused approach drives competitive advantage. “Discerning customers’ desires and ensuring their satisfaction by conducting research is imperative. How might we deliver their needs and provide a superior customer experience? This is the question that must be constantly asked and answered to achieve sustained success in today’s dynamic marketplace,” says Borgmann.
From startups that offer an AI-powered mental health tracker to genetically personalized solutions for routine fitness and diet plans, the sector is vast both in needs and solutions.
“In our segment, the trend is for individualized diets and nutritional preferences, delivered with quality and high precision at production scale,” says Borgmann.
I guess staying healthy comes with a price tag. But can’t you just practice yoga and watch the Sweaty Betty YouTube channel?