With the unprecedented explosion of the wellness industry over the last five years, both brands and customers are trying to separate the wellness wheat from the chaff.
According to the Global Wellness Institute’s latest data, the global wellness industry grew by 6.4% annually between 2015 and 2017 to $4.2 billion, which was faster than the global economic growth of 3.6%. Of that, the beauty wellness industry represents over $1 billion. As the category swells and welcomes more brands into its fold, brands must compete to stand out. The latest marketing shift in the industry is one that brings more attention to the granular function of wellness supplements and ingestibles through the term “cellular health.” The terminology has been introduced as a means of clearly telling customers how the products work, on a cellular level, and that they improve cell function and lifespan , which is the backbone of popular beauty supplements like collagen, biotin and vitamin E.
In October, Néstle Health Science launched a new brand dedicated to the concept, called Celltrient Cellular Nutrition. It consists of three categories of ingestible products to protect, energize and strengthen cellular health. Joelle Legree, Néstle Health Science associate marketing director, said these products are meant to offer more sustained and consistent results on a cellular level, and feature ingredients like the antioxidant glutathione and nicotinamide riboside chloride, which is a form of B3. Celltrient, which is sold through its DTC e-commerce site, Amazon and Walmart.com, is targeted to people who are age 50 and above, with a household income of at least $75,000.
“We believe we are part of the next wave of wellness, because at some point, [the market gets] saturated and people are looking for products that work on a deeper level,” said Legree. “This is an emerging science, and we’re seeing a rise in the scientific publications around cellular health. As more doctors continue to learn about it, this category could grow very quickly.”
Celltrient’s customer education and outreach consist of blog posts on its e-commerce website, an unbranded website MyAACD.org which launched in August, a sponsorship of the annual Gerontological Society on Aging conference held in early November, an initial 5,000 mailers and product kits sent to geriatric medicine doctors, and advertising on Doximity, which is a professional social network for medical professionals. Overall, 70% of the marketing budget will go to digital marketing and ads, said Legree.
This is not the first time the beauty industry has flirted with more hi-tech scientific concepts. Biotech’s obsession over longevity has permeated the beauty industry, and beauty has also relied on scientific advancements in ingredient delivery to improve the efficacy of already-popular ingredients. With the addition of “cellular health” into the wellness lexicon, it lends an air of credibility by further associating wellness with health.
“If you’re not addressing [an ingestible] from a cellular level, then the supplement isn’t really supplementing anything,” said Kerrilynn Palmer, CAP Beauty co-founder and CEO. She added that the term “holistic” feels antiquated and clunky to her, and does not clearly address a product’s purpose.
“Cellular health feels a little sexier, more data-driven and more appropriate for the kind of skepticism that is entrenched in the wellness and beauty worlds,” said Palmer. “It’s a nice little bow that you get to wrap around a product to legitimize something that people had questions about.”
Semantics and wellness have a sordid history, as pseudo-scientific products often co-opt health language and label it wellness. The use of “cellular health” could fuel the idea that the wellness industry is a fugazi, or benefit brands that can successfully use it to stifle their competition and support their product claims.
Elizabeth Ashmun, Moon Juice president, agreed that while the terminology of cellular beauty is new, the concept itself is not. She said consumers have not really thought about how beauty regimens start at the cellular level, even though they have to perform. Moon Juice launched SuperBeauty in April, designed to be a cellular health product with beauty benefits. Glutathione is also a key ingredient of SuperBeauty.
“It initially launched with Sephora. We know consumers are really looking for beauty benefits, but the reality is it’s really about cellular health,” she said. “We wanted to give consumers a tangible benefit that was easier for them to understand than just saying that it’s helping with skin longevity.”
Ashmun said the industry’s branded education of inside-out skin health drives the cellular beauty narrative, and that customers are using this education to push brands in new directions.
“Even though [cellular health] has been around for a long time, it’s still being demystified for consumers,” said Ashmun. “As consumers are trying to navigate the space, they’re going to need this education and information, and with that comes a better understanding of the science. Consumers will then become savvier about how the formulas are actually working, which gets further into the topic of biology and the body.”