From an initial test batch of 20 units, Duey and Michael Garrett have built their company into the premier maker of cold plunge tubs
Around three years ago, finding a cold plunge tub for at-home use at a cost of under five figures was difficult, pricing most consumers out of the modality that’s seen a surge in popularity due to its beneficial effects on recovery, mental health and overall well-being.
Michael Garrett and Ryan Duey set out to change that, co-founding Plunge in 2020 and creating the brand’s signature cold plunge tub, which currently retails for just $4,990, less than half of what most similar products on the market had been going for.
The Plunge uses cooling, filtration and sanitation technology to create clean, 39-degree water on-demand, which is cold enough for users to reap health benefits but not so cold that ice forms.
Following an early batch of 20 units built in Garrett’s garage that they sold to friends and business partners, the Plunge co-founders rapidly scaled the business, building production facilities in the Sacramento area and shipping Plunge tubs to consumers – and now businesses – worldwide.
The company is off to an impressive start, experiencing what Duey described as “exponential year-over-year growth” since officially launching in September 2020.
Duey, Plunge’s co-CEO, spoke with Athletech News about the brand’s genesis and growth, why the cold water therapy market has exploded in popularity and the company’s plans to ramp up its B2B sales efforts.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length
Athletech News: What opportunity did you and Michael Garrett see in the cold water therapy market that convinced you to start Plunge?
Ryan Duey: We saw a major gap. There wasn’t a cold plunge that we could, at the income level we had, really afford that we actually liked. We already knew amongst ourselves and our friends that there was an interest, although we didn’t quite grasp the potential real size of the market, both where it’s at now and where we envision it going. But we knew we wanted a tub that looked really good, was efficient, clean, and had cold, on-demand water, all at a price point that was more affordable than what was on the market at the time. Whereas other people had been charging $10,000-$15,000, it was a pretty simple equation for us to get to our price point ($4,990). We knew what our margins were and we built a company around that.
ATN: Why did you design Plunge tubs to use cold water rather than ice like some of your competitors?
RD: It’s already hard enough to get into an ice bath, your mind starts making (mental) excuses. We also wanted to take out all the physical excuses that can come into it, which would be the time allocation into going and buying ice, filling it up and waiting for it to cool down. We just thought, ‘If this was there for me at every single moment, and it was cold and clean at the temperature I wanted, what does that look like?’ The unit only requires about 20 minutes of setup, which is mostly filling it up with a hose and plugging it in. It plugs into a 110-volt outlet (U.S. Standard), which is a really important piece, since you don’t need to upgrade your electrical system. It’s a regular appliance that you can purchase and add to your home.
ATN: Why has the cold water therapy market grown so quickly over the last few years?
RD: It’s definitely accelerated quicker than I anticipated. We knew there was a big market potential here, but we had no real understanding of the timeline of how it would unfold. It’s blown me away because it does take some discipline, courage and commitment to get into the cold water. I didn’t know so many people would adopt that so quickly. And we’re seeing this network effect that’s happening. Right now, I still ask, “How many people do you know with an actual cold plunge?” It’s probably not many, but there’s a lot of conversation around it. So we get really excited when we ship a tub out because that’s probably the first cold plunge that’s going into that neighborhood.
There are also some bigger cultural dynamics going on to put it more at the forefront, whether that’s due to COVID or whether it’s just in the zeitgeist more because of people like Andrew Huberman and Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who are bringing more legitimacy and understanding to the everyday person about the modality.
And at the end of the day, it’s a very impactful modality that works. You go in, and after two minutes, you feel better. You’re getting that dopamine increase, you’re coming out with more clarity, feeling a little more calm but also very alive.
ATN: How much bigger can the cold water market get?
RD: We’re in the first inning. If you want to trend it out, you could look at what the hot tub industry did, especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s, with household penetration. We’re not even a blip on that radar yet. If cold can become even a fraction of that, that’s a market that is far beyond what anyone’s anticipating right now.
ATN: How is Plunge expanding its B2B efforts and selling to gyms and other facilities?
RD: We’ve done really well with SMBs (small and midsize businesses). Now, we’re starting to focus on the enterprise side, piloting with some of the bigger brands and organizations. We have a new product lineup that’s going to be coming out later this year, and one of those products is geared toward commercial entities.
The B2B side has been a real journey because this is a whole new modality for the fitness world; cold hasn’t really existed. So it’s like, “How does this fit into a gym? Does this go in the locker room? Does this go out on the pool deck? Does this go near the sauna? Is this an upsell in the membership? Is it a fire and ice room that’s rented privately?” We’ve been working with different partners to figure out, for their style of business, what the best way is to monetize (cold plunges) and get their customer base using it. So the commercial side will be a big focus for us the rest of this year and especially in 2024.
We just launched a partnership with Aktiv Solutions, which is one of the premier organizations in (gym) space design. It’s just getting started, but the interest has been awesome and they’re a class-act organization.
ATN: What’s the reception been like so far for gyms that have implemented cold plunge tubs?
RD: The interest is insane. The units we’ve placed in different facilities have been completely booked out, there are lines to get in and access Plunge. It’s also become a great funnel for commercial facilities on Yelp because people are looking up places in their local region with a cold plunge.
As far as how facilities are using it, it depends, but the fire and ice room concept is becoming really popular, where you have a room with a sauna and cold plunge, and you can do contrast therapy.
Also, a lot of gyms are trying to add more premium memberships within their model, and so these recovery rooms are becoming a big value-add. So you have your base membership and then you pay another $10-20 more a month, whatever the number is, and you get access to these other rooms. And the premium gyms just need to get this modality to stay up to date with being a premium facility.
ATN: What are your main near-term goals for Plunge?
RD: We’re very focused right now on our current roadmap. We’re currently at around a five-week lead time, which we’re really pushing to get down. We’ve taken on way more warehouse space and have expanded our staff to try and get it to where you can buy a cold plunge and have it go out ASAP.
There are also a lot of different use cases for cold plunges that we’re exploring. Someone who lives in a New York City apartment is very different from someone who lives in the suburbs of Charlotte and has more space. There are different unit types that can match those people. There’s a lot of opportunity in the category, which we are attacking.
We also began taking pre-orders on our sauna, so we’re no longer just a cold plunge company. We’re Plunge, and the brand is around products that create resilience. So big picture, there are new products and new categories that we’ll be rolling out.