From mushrooms to merch: the cutting edge industries for small business in 2021

Melbourne, Australia
1 Mar 2021
Mushrooms, alternative alcohol, digital health and merch are four of the fastest-growing sectors for startups and small businesses in 2021, according to global creative platform 99designs by Vistaprint. 

Alongside a study of more than 4,000 consumers around the world, the rapid growth in these industries was identified by analyzing the number of design projects commissioned by brands in these sectors on the 99designs platform:   

  • Mushrooms: Maitake, shiitake, cordyceps and lion’s mane are just a few of the mushroom varieties rocking the health and wellness space in 2021, with promises of improved mental focus, boosted immunity and other therapeutic benefits. Demand for mushroom-related branding and design has risen by an enormous 525% since 2018 on 99designs, increasing by 100% in the last year alone. And with 62% of consumers saying they are open to trying mushroom-based products for their reported health benefits, the opportunity for new brands and businesses is clear: mushrooms are going mainstream.

  • Alternative alcohol: With more than 60% of people planning to change their drinking habits in 2021, alternative booze is big business. 1 in 4 people globally (26%) want to give up alcohol completely, and around 1 in 5 (19%) want to reduce their alcohol consumption. With another 15% planning to switch out their usual beverages for healthier alternatives, brands are responding to the demand with plenty of new, innovative options – particularly when it comes to non-alcoholic beer and zero-proof spirits. As such, the number of alternative alcohol-related creative projects completed on 99designs increased 257% in the past three years, shooting up 215% in 2020.

  • Digital health and wellness: With so many of us under pandemic restrictions, access to at-home health and wellness services has been essential over the past year, fuelling an already booming digital healthcare industry. In 2020, design projects launched by digital health businesses on 99designs increased 103%, with overall growth of 176% since 2018. Globally, the most popular consumer digital health verticals are fitness and exercise (55%), medical services (53%) and mental health support (33%). Most significantly, while 57% of all consumers have used an online health service or platform of some kind in the past year, 93% of people plan to continue using these digital products in the future, which is promising news for startups and businesses in the wellness space.

  • Branded Merch: Custom shirts, hoodies, bags and more have become a staple tool for savvy brands looking to build a sense of community, and in a year where physical connection was extremely difficult, customers were quick to show their support. 52% of people bought branded merch from a business in 2020, and 81% of these purchases were made to support a small business during the pandemic. It’s a trend that spans industries, from restaurants and bars to hair salons and bookstores, and 99designs by Vistaprint has seen a 134% increase in project briefs for branded merch since 2018, with a 32% jump in 2020.
“As a global creative community working with tens of thousands of brands and designers  around the world each year, we are in a unique position to tap into and identify emerging and growing industry trends”, said 99designs by Vistaprint CEO, Patrick Llewellyn. “With everything we’ve lived through over the past twelve months, it’s not surprising that health and wellness are top of mind for both business owners and consumers, and it's a natural evolution from some of last year’s high-growth industries such as plant-based meats and biohacking.”

For more information and an infographic illustrating these four emerging industries visit 

Industry growth data sourced from design contests and creative branding projects completed on the 99designs by Vistaprint platform between January 2018 and January 2021.  

Consumer trends data sourced by 99designs via market research company Corus in February 2021. 4,178 responses were collected online from the following regions: North America (1,169), Australia (1,006), DACH (1,001) and the UK (1,002). 

About 99designs by Vistaprint:
99designs by Vistaprint is the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Originally founded in 2008, 99designs has grown from a small, online forum into a worldwide community of talented designers that is now a go-to solution for small businesses, agencies and entrepreneurs. To date, designers have earned more than US $300m on the platform.

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