Fitness brand Virgin Active acquires long-time healthy food offering partner Kauai, Nü

SOUTH AFRICA – Virgin Active, one of the largest global fitness brands, has entered into a binding agreement to merge the nutrition assets of Real Foods i.e., Kauai and Nü chains of healthy fast casual restaurants, into its South African operation for GBP28.6m (US$37.9m).

Virgin Active together with Kauai and Nü have had a successful partnership since 2005 with nutritional offerings in 108 of Virgin Active’s gyms, including 5 outside South Africa.

The acquisition of Real Foods will provide significant additional customer touch points, cross incentives and, importantly, data and customer offerings.

The combination will also enhance the member experience and help deliver a holistic wellness experience to the Virgin Active community.

“Our wellness strategy has been to improve its members’ lives in a broader sense than just the provision of fitness clubs.

“Nutrition and preventative wellness are key to delivering on an integrated wellness strategy,” Virgin Active’s stated.

According to a release by Brait, one of the shareholders of Virgin Active alongside Virgin Group, the Real Foods Transaction will result in DK Consortium acquiring a further 4.5% stake in Virgin Active after injecting GBP18.2 million (US$24.15m).


The Real Foods Transaction is subject to certain conditions, including regulatory approvals, which are expected to be obtained by no later than 30 September 2022.

As the parties wait for the finalization of the deal, Virgin Active has appointed Dean Kowarski as the new CEO for the company.

Dean has been active in the wellness space for many years, both personally and professionally.


He is the proprietor of the Real Foods Group, and acquired the Kauai business in 2015 and has subsequently grown the business from 100 stores to 204 stores of which 108 are operated within Virgin Active gyms.

Dean has had a close association with the Virgin Active business for many years and has an in-depth understanding and passion for the health and wellness space.

He took over as the CEO on 4 March 2022, replacing Matthew Bucknall, who is retiring in June 2022 after 25 years at Virgin Active.

Real Foods has grown rapidly, however, it was impacted by the COVID pandemic as the health club businesses globally was significantly impacted by the devastating effects of COVID.

However, the pandemic has driven an increased focus and acceptance of health and wellness in peoples’ lives and, with many countries finally opening up and removing residual COVID restrictions, the health club industry is starting to return to normality and capitalise on renewed growth prospects.

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