Five things wellness brands can learn from the German grassroots movement


Named the “trillion dollar industry for 2017” by Euromonitor, the wellness industry’s popularity has continued to grow. Even Ikea is getting in on the act with a full range of products focused on 'helping people improve their emotional and physical wellbeing'.

But Germany is ahead of the curve when it comes to wellness. There, the industry is estimated to be worth €100bn a year and has manifested itself in a number of novel ways, from the Mercedes Benz ‘wellness truck’ to the ‘wellness wurst’ (wellness sausage).

But contrary to these examples, German ‘wellness’ is a grassroots movement – it’s been around for years, born out of a Germanic love of fresh air and fresh food to build a strong immune system or cure the sick. Summer holidays are as much about a trip to the lakes or hiking and cycling in the mountains as they are about time in the sun.

Germany also has one of the largest spa cultures in all of Europe, with over 900 spas registered across the country. In fact, the German healthcare system regularly subsidises treatments as a preventative measure against illness.

And with a mindful approach to the planet (Germans have produced more recycling than landfill per household since 2004, annually host Europe’s largest vegan festival and are working to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 80% by 2050) wellness and everything it entails, is simply part of a lifestyle that’s healthy for them and the planet. This means that the German public is very discerning and quick to sniff out inauthentic players in the space.

In other cultures, wellness has asserted itself more in recent years as a reactionary force, to combat the stress and turbulence of modern life. The word originates from America, where it feels undeniably premium; it conjures up images of aspirational lifestyles, personal massages and healthy concoctions licensed only to Wholefoods. A liberal, seemingly sophisticated response to the uncertain world of Trump, readily available to those who can afford it. But the market is beginning to feel saturated; currently on sale in the US right are, among other products, wellness candies, wellness dog food and a wellness hair salon chair.

Thinking about how brands can play in the wellness space, there’s a lot we can learn from those that have won the favour of the discerning German public. If we use this as the acid test, we’re future-proofing the strategy for other key markets that are also yearning for authenticity among the barrage of wellness products they’re exposed to.

1.    Tangible Reasons to Believe – what about this product will enhance my wellbeing? And how will it work?

Weleda communicates around its products’ active ingredients and medicinal properties, but substantiates these with complete transparency on their production processes and ingredient sources

2.    Authenticity – what is it about this product / service that makes me believe it will deliver on this? Do I trust it?

Veganz supermarket chain offers Vegan recipes, cooking courses and brunch in addition to its physical and online stores, proving a holistic commitment to a vegan lifestyle

3.    Tailored to my Needs –What makes one person feel “well” does not necessarily translate to another. What will it do for me?

Neuronation offers a workout for your mind, but instantly tailored to your specific needs, lifestyle and ability

4.    Experience –What about this product means that I will feel better “in the moment”?

Athleisure apparel brand Aeance has created a cult wellness brand that shuns the seasonal collection model in favour of clear, tangible consumer benefits – made of the finest fabrics using cutting-edge technology such as bonded, non-stitched seams and intricate laser cut details

5.    Social Good – will purchasing this product give me knock-on feel-good factors? Good for the planet? Good for the producer?

Natural coffee soft-drink brand Caté mentions fair trade, sustainable and organic in the same breath as low-calorie and full of vitamins, under the holistic banner “Good Does Better”

Keeping these five factors in mind will help brands to cut through the noise and remain authentic in this overcrowded space.

Emily Sheen, Flamingo