Next up in our Why We Invested series is Way. Way is a mindful eating platform that utilizes intuitive eating, behavioral science, and mindfulness to help people improve their relationships with food and their body. Their name says it all - the name Way comes from the original Greek word for diet - “diaita” - which means, “way of living”. In line with this name, Way's mission is to impact health and happiness through mindful eating and listening to the body. Their vision is to replace diets and diet culture with a new way of being about food, your body, and yourself.
Eating disorders and the struggle to maintain healthy eating habits affect a significant portion of the population. To put it in perspective, this is about 28.8 million Americans that will struggle with an eating disorder at least once in their lifetime. Despite billions of dollars spent on solutions, eating disorders, and the obesity epidemic continue to grow. In the past 20 years alone, the percentage of obese Americans rose 10%... that’s about 33 million people. Current offerings such as meal plans, diets, and medications have shown little success in sustaining long-term results. What happens with most obesity interventions is people lose weight rapidly and then progressively gain weight back. After 5 years, the average patient regains about 75% of their weight. This failed approach leaves people with feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.
Many products claiming to take a behavioral approach to food often turn out to be restrictive diets in disguise. For example, Noom, a psychology-based digital health platform that provides nutrition and exercise coaching, focuses on helping people make restrictive diets a habit. This can help develop a mindset but does not solve the problem that restrictive diets are, at their core, not sustainable. Noom has been developed as the opposite of intuitive eating and has sometimes created disordered eating habits. Other competitors like Calibrate, Intellihealth, and WeightWatchers are indirect competitors targeting a similar customer base with a different solution - restrictive eating. The outcome of these dishonest offerings often leaves people feeling worse than before.
A study done by the National Library of Medicine found that eight types of unintended negative consequences from using diet and fitness apps surfaced, including an unhealthy fixation on numbers like macronutrients and calories, little to no meal variation, obsession with food tracking and exercise, feelings of shame and guilt, and more. The way that some of these apps “gamify” eating can quickly turn a health journey into a health disaster. Luckily, Way knows consumers are being misguided, which is why they’re so passionate about mending the relationship between people and food.
While the behavioral health and dieting landscape is vast, Way differentiates itself from key players in the game because Way's hyper-focus on a niche customer base and intuitive branding gives them an edge in customer conversion. By targeting a specific demographic and offering a therapeutic process rooted in intuitive eating, Way aims to break the cycle of restrictive dieting and provide long-lasting results for millions around the world, and this is no exaggeration.
The market for weight loss management, specifically the removal of restrictive dieting and incorporation of intuitive eating, is massive. In 2021 alone, the weight management segment was $224 billion dollars, and this is expected to have an annual growth rate of 6.8%, meaning that by 2030 this number will increase to $405 billion. This escalating worldwide prevalence of eating disorders and obesity is amplifying the demand for preventive and mitigating measures. Likewise, as research further develops the link between eating disorders and obesity to chronic illnesses and other health conditions, there is a heightened awareness of the need for better solutions.
Way, even in an early stage, is proving that they are a better solution. Healthline named Way the Best Non-Diet App for Weight Loss app in 2023 because it serves as the perfect “safe space” and is a “refreshing change to the traditional health apps out there.” Reviews highlight the app’s 60+ activities that are broken down into three pathways that 1) unlearn and create safety from the “perfect” body image that’s the most common trigger into the restrict-binge eating cycle, 2) understand and connect with how emotions can affect eating habits, instead of trying to “fight,” “stop,” or “ditch” them, and 3) make it easy to learn how to listen to the body, because it’s talking and is the most intelligent and efficient system humans have ever studied.
Customers answer more rounds of self-reflective questions to dig deep into their emotions and start figuring out how diet culture affects them – and, most importantly, how to break free from it. It's all about starting that journey to food freedom! Way's intuitive nutrition approach is gaining rapid traction, with thousands of subscribers in the first year securing a spot in the top 15% of apps already. With an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars and 86% of Apple App Store reviews awarding five stars, users are expressing their love for the concept and its tangible benefits. While minor app glitches have been reported, their dedicated team is swiftly addressing them to ensure a seamless and exceptional user experience. The team has a well-defined product roadmap that aims to enhance the customer journey, implement personalized experiences through ML-driven pattern recognition, and expand through third-party integrations and marketplace features. Way also envisions generative AI integration working directly with more traditional B2B customers down the road.
Way's initial go-to-market strategy focused on leveraging a network of 3,000 dietitians built through their previous app, MealShare, expanding a trusting community, and utilizing paid ads. They have successfully executed this strategy and are now exploring partnerships with employers to integrate the app into employee benefits packages. By targeting B2B2C opportunities, Way aims to boost growth while decreasing customer acquisition costs.
Led by CEO and Founder Bentley Adams, who is a two-time exited founder and a team with extensive experience in the health and wellness space. Bentley has a deep understanding of his customers, having previously founded MealShare, a food journaling app. Bentley's ability to execute with thoughtfulness and speed, coupled with his domain expertise, makes him an exceptional leader. The team also includes professionals with experience from companies like Headspace, Square, MyContract, and Bon Appétit, ensuring a well-rounded skill set for development and growth.
We at Redbud are confident in Way's potential to disrupt the behavioral health and nutrition space with their innovative approach to intuitive eating. With an experienced team, early traction, and a clear roadmap, Way is well-positioned to become the leading intuitive eating application. We are thrilled to be a part of their journey and look forward to supporting their growth and impact in improving people's relationships with food