Are We Wasting $4 Trillion On Our Well Being?

The Lempert Report
October 26, 2020

Our tensions are high, our nerves are frazzled and we are trying to stay calm and healthy.

A new column in Gear Patrol reports that the high cost of supplements and fitness equipment has left millions of Americans in its wake.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that the number-one cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, which is linked to poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and obesity.

Costly doctor bills, high insurance premiums and painfully expensive pharmaceuticals have many citizens says Gear Patrol turning to wellness to improve their health. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry was last valued at $4.2 trillion as of 2017, the biggest categories being personal care, beauty and anti-aging ($1.1 trillion); nutrition and healthy eating ($702 billion); and fitness and mind-body products ($595 billion).

So isn’t this a good sign?

According to the GWI, the industry accounts for more than five percent of global economic output, growing nearly twice as fast as overall global economic growth between 2015 and 2017. Wellness spending has expanded to more than 50 percent of the amount spent on traditional healthcare globally, even though the wellness industry is unregulated and largely ignored by the government and conventional medicine.

However, many of today's most exciting wellness products target a small minority of affluent consumers. Consider a month's supply of stress-reducing supplements from Moon Juice for $49; plant-based meals from Sakara for $70 per day; yoga pants from Lululemon for $118; a stationary bike from Peloton for $2,245 (plus the $39 monthly membership). According to global management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting, the average consumer spent more than $100 per month in 2018 on nutritional supplements like vitamins, minerals and herbal products, along with skin-care products.

"There's an alternative healthcare system that's going on, and some of it works and some of it doesn't," says Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, which works to expand access to meditation. "Unfortunately, the only people who can get it are the people who can afford it. But everybody should have the benefits of it."

Fortunately, there are plenty of brands working to change the system from within.

Just one example is that Beyond Meat’s cholesterol-free burgers, sausage and meatballs have more protein and iron and less saturated and total fat than their traditional counterparts. The price of a 10-pack of burgers comes out to $1.60 per patty, comparable to the cost of ground beef in some areas — and the vegan products are available both at grocery chains like Walmart, Target and Kroger and at fast-food chains like Dunkin', Carl's Jr. and Subway.

HUM Nutrition, specializes in nutritional wellness and creates products to support skin, hair, body and mood. But its products are sold at more accessible prices than competitors like Moon Juice, ranging from $10 to $40 for a month's supply. "Additionally, we offer free access to RD [registered dietitian] nutritionists to any visitor of our website — consumer or not," says CEO Walter Faulstroh. "To date, we have provided education to over one million people without charging them, which we are very proud of."

Independent market-research publisher Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. found that the U.S. meditation market was $959 million in 2015 and are projecting it to hit $2.08 billion by 2022.

The same study found 1,000 mediation smartphone apps on the market, many of which require subscriptions. Apptopia estimated that U.S. consumers spent $32 million on self-care mobile apps in the first quarter of 2018, up 40 percent year over year. By the end of 2018, Apple named Self-Care — consisting of meditation and mindfulness apps — the App Trend of the Year.

According to a 2017 report by Global Market Insights, the home fitness-equipment market is expected to grow by 4.7 percent per year until 2022, eventually reaching a value of $12.8 billion. Leading the charge is stationary-bicycle brand Peloton, which offers app-connected bikes and live-training programs; the basic bike costs $2,245, and the membership fee to access training programs is $39 per month. During the fiscal third quarter, the brand's revenue grew 66 percent from a year ago to $524.6 million.

According to a report from the Milken Institute, chronic diseases attributed to obesity were responsible for $1.72 trillion in healthcare costs and lost productivity in 2016.

If effective products in the wellness industry become available to a wider range of people, it could lead to considerably less stress on the healthcare system. Yet as long as wellness is marketed as a luxury, its advantages will largely be out of reach for millions of Americans — many of whom will then be forced to pay in other ways.

Gear Patrol says that   "Wellness should never be something that only a higher economic status can achieve, and yet that is the reality today. "