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Why health and fitness franchises are proving a good fit for franchisees

Written by Jade Saunders on Monday, 01 June 2015. Posted in Analysis

Franchises in the health and fitness sectors offer more than just a commercial opportunity; franchisees are able to make a positive difference in the lives of others whilst making a living

Why health and fitness franchises are proving a good fit for franchisees

With obesity levels rising, along with diseases caused by inactivity and poor nutrition, more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle. The UK is in the midst of an obesity epidemic and by, 2034, it is estimated that 70% of adults will be overweight or obese. 

There is a growing demand for more health and fitness franchises to outnumber the fast food franchises dotted on almost every corner and it seems that many are now spotting a gap in the market to provide 24-hour gyms, fast food alternatives and nutritional products. But what makes the industry so appealing and what types of people are enticed into health and fitness franchises?

Fitness tailored to you 

Increasing numbers of American fitness franchises bringing their brand to Blighty. But what is calling these brands from across the pond? 

“As a nation we are quite far behind other nations in terms of our average participation,” explains Andy Thompson, UK chairman of Anytime Fitness, the access-all-hours gym franchise. “About 12% of the population will use a health and fitness club and we are way behind the States, the Nordic nations and Spain.”

As one of the leaders in the fitness industry, Anytime Fitness is unique in its 24-hour availability and as a more convenient alternative to conventional health clubs. It therefore stands out to franchisees looking to venture into the health and fitness franchise industry. 

Thompson is not only chairman but an active franchisor at Anytime Fitness. He invested in the global brand after realising the potential of its unique offering as well as the chance to promote a healthier lifestyle. “I was a big user of health clubs and I could see how people would benefit from something like Anytime Fitness,” he says.

“We are, probably more than ever, being bombarded with lots of messages around health and exercise,” explains Thompson. “Therefore there’s a huge amount of interest in actually getting into the health club or into the gym and doing something. Everyone knows that you’re going to suffer a bit in there; it’s not going to be easy. But we want to make it as pleasant as possible in that suffering.”

Many of Anytime Fitness’s franchisees own multiple franchises and, while many live and breathe fitness themselves, others have acknowledged the growing demand for gyms catered to different lifestyles and working patterns.

“The health and fitness sector at the moment is ripe for investment. There are lots of things happening and it is generally a market where you do see a lot of fads and trends,” says Thompson. “The reality is exercising in a health and fitness club has been here for years and will be here for many more years to come.”

Nutritious nosh

Getting a healthy snack when out and about can be a challenge. With fast food chains, doughnut stands and ice cream vendors filling our high streets and shopping centres, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to wave goodbye to a healthier lifestyle and succumb to naughtier treats.

But one franchise has come to the rescue to offer up healthy and nutritious drinks and snacks. The brains behind Zenerjii, a fresh smoothie franchise, spotted a gap in the market to provide fast-food alternatives to health conscious customers with products free from preservatives, added sugar and concentrates.

“We have had a lot of interest in franchising our units so I definitely think that people are capitalising on a growing consciousness of the general public for healthy food,” says Naoimh Hughes, marketing manager at Zenerjii. “People have become more nutritionally aware over the last couple of years and I think attitudes have shifted away from fast food and junk food to being more conscious of what people are eating,”

One product in particular that has exploded in the UK is frozen yoghurt and Zenerjii quickly cottoned on to the nation’s hankering for a low-fat ice cream alternative. “There are a lot of different frozen yoghurt places popping up so that was definitely a product that we were keen to put on our menu because it is a healthy alternative to ice cream,” Hughes says. 

Whilst there is an obvious commercial opportunity in health franchises, Zenerjii says offering a quality product to customers is more important than the profit it makes. For Zenerjii, it’s more about making a difference to people’s lifestyles and promoting a healthy diet. Staff are well educated to provide all nutritional information on each product with their in-depth knowledge about the sugar levels and micro and macro nutrients in each product, putting them in a good position to advise increasingly health aware customers.

“A lot of fast-food chains sometimes hide their nutritional content. We are very upfront and transparent,” explains Hughes. “It’s basically about trying to educate people on the ground about our products and about nutrition in general.”

Even Zenerjii’s name harks back to the balance of a healthy lifestyle and relates to the increased energy levels that come with eating healthier. The company aims to educate customers on not only what is in its products but on healthy eating habits in general. It does this with savvy staff and the posters dotted around each shop.

It also runs blind taste tests for customers to see if they can tell the difference between concentrate juices from the supermarket and Zenerjii’s freshly squeezed juices. “It gives us the opportunity to explain why freshly squeezed, for example, is so much better than the bottled stuff,” says Hughes.

A healthy body is a happy body

With the nation becoming more aware of the dangers of obesity and the diseases brought on by unhealthy lifestyles, the need for health and fitness franchises is certainly growing. One franchise owner that advocates a healthy lifestyle and actively promotes this as a career is Sarah Benham, personal wellness coach and franchisee of Herbalife in Chelmsford.  

What started as company selling health and nutrition products, turned into over a decade of educating others on the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. Bored of her sedentary career, Benham and her husband were captured by the healthy glow of existing Herbalife franchisees and knew that achieving that lifestyle themselves, as well as encouraging others, was their calling. They practice what they preach: they use Herbalife products daily and have a healthy, active lifestyle.

For Benham and her husband, their business is not just an income generator but also a way to educate others about a healthly lifestyle. “We are just promoting a healthy active lifestyle; 80% of that is down to your nutrition and 20% of that is down to the exercise that you do,” explains Benham. “With the obesity epidemic and everything that is going on around us, our focus is to get people to lead a healthier active lifestyle and live longer.” 

Benham took her mission further by running a Fit Camp fitness programme five times a week to help people of all ages and sizes get moving and reach fitness goals.

“They can come along with friends, it’s free and if you don’t like it you don’t have to come back.” Each session lasts 30-50 minutes and is run by Benham or her husband. Sessions are free to attend and open to all, not just customers. With the sessions, Benham hopes to educate others on being responsible for their lifestyle. With Fit Camp, fitness tests, weigh-ins and if customers choose, the Herbalife nutrition, Benham is providing all-round support to those wanting to look after themselves. She lives by the mantra: “You only get one body, you’ve got to look after it.”

Health and fitness franchises lend themselves to more than just the health conscious. Every person can benefit from a healthier lifestyle and with more people becoming aware of the benefits, more opportunities for franchises are arising. “There is a massive gap in the market for it,” says Benham. “As long as people do their research and understand what they are getting involved in.” 

About the Author

Jade Saunders

Jade Saunders

Saunders recently graduated with a degree in Journalism after three years of sun, sea and cider living in Cornwall. After being pried away from the pasties, she returned home to join the team at Elite Franchise combining her passion for entrepreneurship and her love of writing. Saunders busies herself co-owning a clothing company, Undead Glory, and has her hands full with her french bulldog puppy and partner in crime, Herbie.

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