South by Southwest used to be known as a music festival with film premieres and tech activations. But there's a new industry in town: wellness. In a sign of the sector's rise, the festival launched a Wellness Expo last year, and a number of brands hopped on board.
The SXSW Wellness Expo has since grown exponentially. According to the festival's director of global sales and exhibitions, it took up about half of Austin's Palmer Events Center last year. This year, it fills up the entire 125,000-square-foot space, with companies clambering to reach a wellness-minded audience.
The jam-packed center offers event-goers seemingly endless ways to get their wellness fix, such as listening to a guided meditation track at Miraval's booth, attending a panel with Gail Becker, CEO and founder of Caulipower, which makes cauliflower crust pizzas, or meeting with Michelle Stafford, actress on General Hospital and founder of the organic skin-care line Skin Nation.
Michelob Ultra also made an appearance at the event, leading a (surprise!) guided meditation session and promoting its Pure Gold organic beer that tallies a mere 85 calories. It's a smart move for Michelob to have a presence at the expo, considering more beer companies are trying to find a place in the wellness space as beer consumption declines in the U.S.
As SXSW comes to a close on Sunday, event planners will probably hear from brands that want in on next year's expo. Our guess: In 2020, they're going to need a bigger event space.
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