Psychedelics, Principles & Profit: Does Unilever’s Acquisition Of Onnit Suggest Their Long Game Is To Combine All Three?


If you look closely in our family makeshift lockdown home gym you’ll see some Onnit Steel Maces both 5kg and 10kg, they are 1m long and made of steel with a chunky metal head (no spikes!). Steel mace flows are a mix between a dumbbell workout and a dance, a couple of minutes long with mace moves being conducted in sequential patterns (5 x Rebel raises, 5 x Halo’s, 10 x 360s then 5 x Spear Thrusts). man lifting weights

I was interested as the Mace is an inherently unstable object; a lot like handlebars on a mountain bike, meaning you are constantly trying to control the bar and twist your body to adapt to the trail. Onnit also market various fitness videos and run gyms over in the United States. In our home gym, we’ve got quite a bit of Onnit merchandise, some of which falls under the sports nutrition category – a tub of Alpha Brain, a pouch of protein, jars of mushrooms blends and a bottle of MCT oil. They also do a great line in gym t-shirts with crazy looking psychedelic apes on them but I didn’t think they would survive the wash so those got left in the cart.

unilever logo

As a brand, Onnit is edgy, progressive, positive and at times, a little dark. This reflects founder Aubrey Marcus. He is a complete unit, the bro’s bro, the alpha male. He also runs a very thoughtful podcast in the health and bio hacking space, writes well on the topic of emotional health and wellness and runs ‘Fit for Service’, a club for plant medicine journeys – ego dissolving Ayahuasca pilgrimages to the Amazon – as preparation for volunteering on projects.

The brand reflects his unique positioning in the health, wellness and psychedelic space. It doesn’t sell out and out psychedelic products and goods as they are not legal in all US states, but Onnit could be exactly the sort of brand property that could be leveraged to become an early mover and shaker in this category. With cannabis edibles and ingestibles on their way to becoming very everyday in the US, the same decriminalisation > legalisation process could be set to repeat itself in psychedelics. Having Onnit in Unilever’s portfolio could be a very solid margin opportunity for investors.

woman doing yoga

But that’s all in the future – for now there will be clear synergies that the Unilever team will be setting about exploiting, flowing their branding and supply chain excellence over Onnits product range in a quest to improve quality, positioning and margin. It’s a clear sign that Unilever feel that nootropics – everything from mushrooms like Lions Mane, Reishi and Change to more exotic compounds – seem set for the mainstream.

The genius of Onnit is to position these compounds in a way that is life enhancing and life affirming, making the compounding easy for shoppers and centering the formulations around occasion, addressing the emotional need and the job to be done.

Onnit have perfected the art of creating products that capture much of the wellness zeitgeist such as Alpha Brain, New Mood and Total Human – great propositions that almost deliver. There is a clothing range and a labyrinth of pre-recorded workouts which are pretty decent. It’s not a brand that’s well known in the UK as it operates through importers and re-sellers rather than direct.

The battle in the nootropic and psychedelic space is between small, independent progressive companies – so called ‘Little Shroom’, pitted against ‘big Shroom’ represented by VCs and Plc’s. In the context of the long game, it’s a smart move, and in the here and now nootropic-meets-fitness-meets-apparel it’s a clever play too. Interested in continuing the conversation with our team? Feel free to contact us today.

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