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 July 18, 2013
The Next Wave Of Healthcare Innovation: Healthy Aging?

 If you want to find hotbeds of innovation, just look where there's tension and instability.

Healthcare is a great example. On one hand, chronic conditions are spiraling out of control at the same dizzying rate as healthcare costs . On the other hand, there's an unprecedented interest among citizens in taking control of their own health, working to stay well instead of waiting to get sick.

So will institutional healthcare evolve quickly enough to avoid annihilation? Will the exponential burden on the 'sick-care' system swamp the efficiencies produced by the wellness trend? What does the future of healthcare hold?

With this dynamic tension in mind, I met with Barry Perzow, one of the leading entrepreneurs in the wellness space. Canadians (especially those on the West Coast) will recognize Perzow's mainstreaming of organic / natural / local produce at Capers Community Markets, starting back in the '80s.

Having successfully sold Capers to Whole Foods, Perzow went on to create the most successful integrative pharmacy in North America, Pharmaca.

Now, Perzow was in Calgary, driving his wellness mission to the next level. "The health system has been slow to recognize the sea change" said Perzow when we met. "But an entire industry is sprouting up to service the needs of the health-engaged. There are more products, services, education and retail than ever surrounding those who want to stay healthy."

So what was the bold next step?

Healthy aging, from the inside out
He believes healthy aging and natural beauty are the next burgeoning market to be tapped. As he showed me around his pilot Cambrian Nutrition concept store in a Calgary suburb (due to open beginning of July), he reflected, "Women - especially women who have children as well as aging parents - are attuned to the wellness movement. They are open to information and advice. They believe in the power of nutrition and supplements. And they aren't buying the false promises being made by the beauty and pharma industry any more."

Like Pharmaca, Cambrian Nutrition will balance product with expertise. "We'll seriously edit our product selection, offering only best in class - and sometimes product you won't be able to find at other retailers." says Perzow. "But what will really set us apart will be our staff. They will be accredited, licensed, trained and knowledgeable far beyond anything consumers have seen so far."

Will it work?
If Cambrian Nutrition works, what will prevent other supplement stores like GNC from creating a boutique store and stealing Perzow's market?

"The brand isn't product." says Perzow. "The brand is expertise. They can copy some of our product, but they can't copy authenticity or passion or expertise. They simply won't have the patience to put the emphasis on high quality advice. Their model is based on selling product, no matter what."

What attracted me to Perzow was his enthusiasm for this next evolution. But at the end of the day, what underlined my interest was his track record in bringing concepts like Capers and Pharmaca to life. I've seen his philosophy in action in both chains, and believe that he could well pull this off.

If nothing else, watch this space for an explosion of innovation. Just what the healthcare industry needs.