Alumbaugh: European group speculates on consumer trends

In my opinion, reports on "trends" are like the results of "surveys" - they're only as valid as the structure of the survey and the credibility of participating individuals. On the other hand, they may provide a snapshot of what global consumers are thinking.

Canadean, a "provider of consumer sector commercial intelligence" in the United Kingdom, has some interesting perspectives on consumer trends. The list was compiled by Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director for the consulting firm. In my mind, these trends seem to be on a more international level, but you be the judge.

  1. Protein from plants, not animals

    The author says "storm clouds are gathering over animal-based protein." Surprisingly, he writes that the strongest support for plant protein is coming from vegetarian athletes. I have my doubts, and so do many nutritionists and exercise scientists. A report in Sports states "Anecdotal reports suggest that many successful endurance athletes are vegetarians, whereas few reports suggest that elite strength athletes follow a vegetarian diet.

    Strength and power athletes almost invariably include meat in their diets."
  2. Fat is back. This could explain why bacon has been such a hot food item for the last few years. Vierhile writes, "Fat is actually being promoted as a health-enhancing ingredient in categories you would not expect, like bottled water. FATwater functional water, a recent U.S. launch, contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) derived from coconut oil." Time will tell whether or not FATwater takes off, but it's unlikely to overtake bacon's popularity.
  3. Soft drinks get hard. Canadean believes filling a gap between overly sweet "alcopops" and more sophisticated drinks like beer, wine, or spirits, "hard sodas" will be a trend to watch in 2016.
  4. Personal care becoming more personal. The trend-watcher says "Personal care routines are getting more detailed and specific with time-of-day-, event-, or even place-dependent personal care innovation reshaping the market. Younger consumers are more likely to change styles or looks based on the time of day, which may create potential for cosmetic and skin-care companies.
  5. Food you can drink. Recent developments like drinkable peanut powder and expanding innovation in drinkable soups that fill the white space between soup and smoothies suggest that the drinkable meal concept may be an idea whose time has come in 2016. And although it's still cost-prohibitive, 3-D printing of food may become more popular in the next few years. Research on "3-D meat" by Ken Prusa at Iowa State University is taking place - PORKNetwork will have a follow-up report on the results.
  6. Small is beautiful. Consumers are willing to try "boutique brands" or small start-up companies if their services and products match consumers' desires. Canadean says, "Consumers are showing their growing love for smaller brands and products from smaller companies. Look for more new product launches in 2016 to avoid looking too processed or mass-produced."
  7. Say "hello" to GMO 2.0. This is good news for agriculture. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs can provide longer shelf life, reduced food waste, and more efficient use of natural resources. These advantages make an increasingly "green" case for new-generation GMOs.
  8. Sweet on sour. Sour flavors could be the next big flavor trend in foods and beverages, with sour flavors breaking out in everything from candy and beer to vegetables, notes Vierhile.
  9. Permissive indulgence. Canadean says, "Adding healthful, 'better for you' iconic health ingredients to indulgent foods is a new trend that is gaining momentum. Consumers really will be able to "have their cake and eat it, too."
  10. Anti-pollution beauty. Cosmetic companies have already moved away from animal-testing of skin-care products. According to Canadean, the trend is for innovation in skincare and haircare products designed to fight pollution in urban environments in 2016.

As mentioned at the start, take these "trends" with a grain of salt (which might also be good for you now). Other studies show completely different trends, some of which also have merit. We will share those with you in a follow-up article.