One thing is for certain: no one needs more fake news, and that includes the products we buy. In sectors such as health and beauty, that means knowing the efficacy of a business is both expertly assessed and scientifically sound – and a rising emphasis on science-based brands is showing us that people are no longer just willing to take vague marketing promises at their word. It’s something that I welcome and value both as an investor and as a consumer.
“Every business is a health business,” declared Accenture in a recent paper on COVID-19 consumer shifts, pointing to the fact that inter and post-pandemic almost every experience and product is likely to be reassessed by people around its healthcare value, i.e how much it contributes to or diminishes nutrition and health.
Consumers used to hearing and trusting the opinions of medical experts during the COVID-19 crisis are now more likely than ever to demand transparency and expert reassurance. Some 43 per cent of Americans now say they have confidence in medical scientists, up from 35 per cent before the outbreak, according to Pew Research Center data. The trend is climbing along with an upswing in demand for proven performance benefits. As such, we can expect to see a wave of products now realign themselves as health brands, relying on scientific endorsement to underpin their claims.
Examples already making waves include Cerebelly, a baby food brand created by a neurosurgeon in 2019 to help support early childhood brain development. Its fast-track success has seen it rolled out in 1,500 Target stores across the US and 1000 per cent growth in revenue since launch. Kenshō Health, launched in January 2020, is another success story, a health platform that merges science and holistic medicine, and brands itself ‘the antithesis of Goop’. Gwyneth Paltrow’s online wellbeing magazine has come under fire for recommending everything from jade eggs to conductive carbon ‘healing stickers’ to its readers. It has also been somewhat of a poster-child for the schism in the wellness industry: strong on lifestyle and somewhat shaky on scientific rigor. Science-based brands could bridge that gap, something that existing brands are also already tapping into. Futurists have noted what they describe as a wave of ‘skintellectualism’ in the beauty industry, where science and tech have joined forces, with companies turning to everyone from MIT graduates to Nobel Laureates to help deliver new technical products that stand up to scrutiny. These include renowned healthcare/skincare company Augustinus Bader, named after the stem cell scientist who created its product formulas, whose new hand cream this year has been created with amino acids, vitamins and synthesized molecules to help counteract dryness from over-washing.
In the end, why should we pay good money to be bamboozled by slick marketing or Instagram ads only to be short-changed at the user experience? Shouldn’t scientific truth have underpinned the health and beauty inventory all along? Perhaps so, even as consumers became blinded to such truths in the face of advertising and glossy promises. But like so many things in modern life, the pandemic of 2020 may well have started a revolution in the ‘normal’ ways of doing things. For me, the trend for companies to underpin their product claims with hard science and for consumers to challenge what they are being told is a positive direction in the marketplace – and one I hope will amplify further in 2021.
Nicole Junkermann is an international entrepreneur and investor, and the founder of NJF Holdings, an international investment company with interests in venture capital, private equity, and real estate. Through NJF’s venture capital arm (NJF Capital), Nicole oversees a portfolio similar in size to a small venture fund across Europe and the US, including in healthcare, fintech, and deep tech.