As crazy a year as 2020 has been, there are some brands out there who will not only have survived, but thrived. No-one saw 2020 coming and without a doubt, the change in how we live will result in a change in what sectors and brands will come out the other side, some being bigger and better than they could have ever expected (I see you Zoom).
Two years age while studying for my MSc, I wrote a post about the 7 fitness brands that were smashing it in 2018. Then at the end of 2019, looked back to see what had changed and to identify the brands to watch in 2020.
This data all comes from the Fast Track 100 research now sponsored by Virgin Atlantic which ranks the top 100 British private companies with the fastest-growing sales over their latest three years.
What The Numbers Say
For these 100 brands, the average sales growth was 73% over the past 3 years with a total of 4.4bn of sales collectively for 2019/20 (up from £3.9bn in my 2018 post).
The services and retails sectors dominate accounting for 88% of those in the top 100 – which is no surprise given the year we have had. With a total of 32,000 staff between them, it’s good to know that jobs can still be created in such an unprecedented time.
And now, I have for you the list of fitness businesses to watch in 2021…
After smashing their way to the top of the overall league table in 2019, Chilly’s the reusable bottles brand, are sat at number 6 for 2020. But they’re still number one of my own league table here.
Sustainability is most definitely a topic that is both relevant and here to stay. I personally do my part where I can with a huge collection or reusable water bottles as well as working to make my periods plastic free.
Chilly’s Bottles also donated £250,000 worth of its insulated bottles to NHS frontline workers this June.
So Huel were the winners of the Ones to Watch Award back in 2018 which meant they were identified as being set to grow rapidly but didn’t qualify for the main league table.
Well, here there are for 2020. Right behind Chilly’s Bottles at number 7 on the overall league table. They’ve recruited more than 30 staff since March, and launched their new “Hot & Savoury” range in September 2020.
Huel are a nutrition brand that started off as a nutritionally complete powdered food. They then moved into ready-to-drink and as mentioned above now have a more diverse range. You can check out my review of Huel here.
I actually did a collaboration with Biotiful Dairy – Kefir products maker – a few years back and now here they are at number 10 on the overall league table. Biotiful Dairy says demand has increased during the pandemic as consumers have become more health-conscious.
I first heard about Bluefin Trading, aka Bluefin Fitness, when they contacted me last year about a potential collaboration. Ironically, they weren’t paying for collaborations but they were at number 3 (position 15 overall) in the list last year.
They’re a sports equipment supplier whose sales have spiked during the pandemic and they’ve doubled their staff headcount to 21 (from 10 last year). They remain at position 15 on the overall league table.
Back in 2016, Gymshark sat in position number 1 of the entire league table and placed as top of the fitness brands in 2018. In 2019, they got bumped to position 2 in fitness and are placed in position 5 for 2020.
The online fitness clothing brand are valued at more than £1bn after selling a 21% stake to US investor General Atlantic in August.
I was never the biggest fan of Gymshark – I felt their brand aesthetic lacked diversity but this year, as a brand, they stepped up to support Instructors who were out of work. I delivered a class for them over on Facebook, which was paid and since then, they’ve worked to really diversify the people who they use in their marketing.
Gut-health drinks maker, Symprove, have entered the league table in 2020 at position 68. They reported a record 50% rise in customers in May compared with 2019.
I tried Symprove towards the end of 2019 and in the first 8 weeks of using it I did notice I had less issues related to my stomach.
Just one place behind Symprove at position 69 is Grenade – another sports nutrition brand. They’ve been ranked for the past two years (at least) so congrats to them for sticking in the top 100.
They are another brand who stepped up and provided energy bars to frontline and NHS staff during the first national lockdown in the U.K.
I don’t personally go out and buy Grenade products but their Carb Killa protein bars featured in my top 5 list for snacking smart.
Last but not least, another sports goods retailer has made it onto our list, placing 95th overall. They’re not a brand I had used much before 2020 actually – but I did purchase my bike box from them.
I didn’t know they had a bricks and mortar store but they opened a second store in September and hired 30 new full-time employees since March.
Who’s Fallen Out Of The Top 100?
Business being business, not all will survive never mind thrive. Here are the brands that have dropped out of the top 100 and our top fitness brands since 2018/19.
- Gravity Active Entertainment
- Heck! Food
- BULK Powders
- Leon Restaurants
- Net World Sports
Having just completed my MSc in Management & Business Innovation, I’ve always found the behind the scenes, business-y stuff really fascinating.
This post was compiled using the The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 league table. In June 2021, it was announced that the league tables would no longer be published and the business was closed.
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