Evolution Wellness is giving its portfolio a workout in the booming Asian fitness and wellness markets
The merger of the owning companies of a pair of Southeast Asia’s most renowned fitness brands in 2017 marked a bold step in the progression of the global wellness market, creating one of the largest fitness networks in the region.
Aptly named Evolution Wellness, today the Group oversees a portfolio of member companies that includes its flagship Fitness First and Celebrity Fitness brands, as well as Malaysia’s CHi Fitness, and multi award-winning eco-wellness lifestyle brand Fivelements. With revenues in excess of US $300 million and over 160 wholly-owned fitness clubs, Evolution Wellness is poised to capture a healthy slice of the $4.2 trillion global wellness industry.
Backed by Navis Capital Partners and Oaktree Capital Management, the initial merger set Evolution Wellness on its current track of “continuous innovation, expansion, and diversification,” as stated in a release announcing the Group company’s debut. Helming the enterprise is CEO Simon Flint, whose 24-year involvement in the Asian health club industry — with over a decade in the CEO role for Fitness First Asia and a background in destination spa consultancy and operations — positioned him as the logical choice to lead the Group into its next phase of growth.
Speaking to VENTURE from his office in Kuala Lumpur, Flint divulged the impetus behind the Group’s creation. “We were very cognisant of changes in the marketplace, and the fact that people are becoming more aware and educated and have a craving for more holistic knowledge around their fitness, general health, and wellness,” he said.
“We are positioning the Group to become a little more holistic, as our name suggests, and have a mission to innovate and to provide important thought leadership as to what our present and future customers will need, and we are evolving with that in mind.”
A glimpse inside the Evolution Wellness portfolio reveals a dedication to assembling complementary brands along the “fitness to wellness” spectrum. Fitness First, a premier brand with wide acceptance, targets the 21-45-year-old demographic and caters to a population that demands a technical and scientific approach to keeping fit with a focus on personal training spearheaded by certified fitness coaches, along with an innovative series of proprietary group fitness classes including HIIT and boxing, designed with performance in mind.
Sister brand Celebrity Fitness, said Flint, “is young, edgy, energetic, and has a particular social appeal to those seeking fun in their approach to fitness. Celebrity Fitness is famous for its proprietary Signature dance series, aptly named ‘Dance ’n Attitude,’ featuring the likes of ‘Seduce,’ ‘Flavour,’ and ‘Raw.’ Another big hit with members is ‘Saltar,’ our trampoline-based class, which is the epitome of a class that delivers as much fun as the fitness benefits.”
Evolution Wellness’s newest addition, the CHi Fitness network of 13 clubs in Malaysia, puts it on strong footing to further elevate the standards of the fitness industry in Malaysia. “Each of the brands in our portfolio have their own distinct position in the marketplace, and will continue to attract and retain members in their own right. However, the opportunity to leverage the network will provide customers of each brand with greater choice and variety; we also have plans on the fitness side that allows people entry-level participation from a price point of view,” he explained.
The inclusion of Fivelements into Evolution Wellness’s portfolio integrates one of the sector’s most lucrative niches into the mix, and speaks particularly to the Group’s holistic ambition. The Bali-based residential wellness operation features epicurean plant-based cuisine, and transformative sacred arts programming such as meditation and yoga.
Drawing from their proven expertise in holistic wellness and innovative plant-based cuisine, Fivelements aims to bring wellness closer to the people who need it the most — urban residents and corporate executives who live highly demanding lifestyles and are seeking greater balance, stress reduction, and authentic, personalised wellness experiences.
“Our ambition is to leverage the Fivelements brand and the very strong connection it has to the wellness community to launch something we call Fivelements Habitat, in Hong Kong,” Flint announced. “Habitat is an urban retreat that will offer urbanites city sanctuaries for yoga and wellness offerings, and brings people what they’d expect from a retreat, including Fivelements’ award-winning plant-based cuisine.” The first Habitat is scheduled to open in Times Square Hong Kong midyear and represents Evolution Wellness’s ambition in the wellness economy. In their 2019 report on emerging trends, industry research group the Global Wellness Initiative pointed to Fivelements as one of the key players in the nascent “urban retreat” space.
“This is a real marker that indicates our intent to lead in the holistic wellness space,” he stressed. “In addition to the Habitat concept, we will see the expansion of our retreat in Bali, and we expect to reveal more destination retreats in the coming months and years.”
As far as future acquisitions go, Evolution Wellness keeps a keen eye out for targets that add value across their spectrum of offerings. “When Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First came together under Evolution Wellness, they were competing brands,” Flint clarified. “In a sense, they still are because they have their own appeal, price points, and tone; however, as an overlay to that we have an opportunity for members across clubs to take a dual brand membership. Ten percent of our Fitness First base has opted to take that, so that gives them a vast number of locations and puts convenience and value right at the top of the agenda.”
Underpinning Evolution Wellness’s commitment to play a leading role in the Asian fitness and wellness scene is the one concept that truly defines the organization: trust. As Flint put it, “Both brands that came together under Evolution Wellness are long-trusted brands in the region; 16 and 18 years, respectively. Along with a highly experienced management team, we aim to preserve our sustainable approach to growth through our robust financial plan, local market knowledge backed by solid financial sponsors that also bring a depth of Asian market knowledge to the relationship, along with a shared appetite for innovation and thought leadership in the sector.”