A food trend watcher is a specialist who focuses on our changing behaviour in relation to food. The way we buy, cook, eat and experience food and beverages is central to this. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a glass ball to look into the future. So, what does a food trend watcher actually do to develop these insights and predictions?
A good food trend watcher has a thorough and structured way of doing trend research. Today, anyone can google a list of next year’s food trends. But to actually generate new insights, it requires more dedication, experience and skills.
Within our agency, we combine many different sources of information. This list includes technological developments, data from scientific research, sales numbers, macro forces, retail innovations, key opinion leaders within the industry like top chefs, baristas, pastry chefs and bloggers on social media, broad consumer trends (design, fashion, music, art, etc.) Next to that, we travel to culinary hotspots, study the latest market launches of other food companies and much more.
We analyse the developments hidden in all this information. Both based on numbers, words, images and other sensory skills. And honestly, that is an enormous amount of information, where you can easily get lost. The trick is to keep seeing the bigger picture, without lapsing into generalities. What are the early signs? Which developments are still small, but have the power to grow into game changers? We formulate insights based on facts from the past and present, but also by linking these to our experience and intuition.
Synthesis; the core of the work of a food trend watcher
After the analysis, we cluster the developments and name them. This may be where the core of the profession lies. What exactly does a food trend watcher do in this phase? This can be summarized as an interpretation of the facts and, at the same time, extending them into the future. In a way that is stimulating, creative and appealing to the imagination.
For example, we no longer have to come up with the trend ‘health’. That is a term that is too broad and superficial, while there is still a lot to do about eat healthy. In our trend work, we show how this term ‘health’ changes over the years and how new interpretations and manifestations constantly emerge.
In the 80’s and 90’s, for example, we saw a campaign on low fat, in the 00’s we started to avoid sugars/ carbohydrates, at the end of the 10’s many were on the hunt for proteins and now we are signaling that plant based is on the rise. In addition, we observe that gut health, with associated products as high-fiber and fermented, is currently coming into the spotlight. In between, there is still a longing for ‘naturalness’ and many small hypes such as raw food and intermittent fasting. And although these are by no means just health trends, it is a powerful indication of how much can belong in one theme and how it renews itself each time.
It is also a challenge not to get too caught in ingredients, flavours and recipes. We often see that food companies claim to be aware of food trends, but they like to copy the trend list of trade magazine. Although we also like to consult these sources, they provide a narrow view on food trends. A good food trend watcher points to changes in food in a larger context of changing consumer behaviour. Why do we eat more in-between? Why do people want to eat more plant based? Why are we now seeing the emergence of fish replacers? How do millennials and gen Z relate to more sustainable food?
Every year we bring all these insights together into the biggest waves of change. Such a wave must be impactful and needs to have a time horizon of 5-20 years. In fact, every trend is an inspiring story in numbers, word, images, behaviors and sensory appearances about what is happening now and how it will extend into the future.
Application to industry/ category
The next step is the translation from these general food trends into a special industry of category. What do these high impact food trends mean for cheese, candy, vegetable, ready-to-eat-meals or bread in particular? Or what does it mean for restaurants, a breeding company, an ingredient supplier or a machine builder? A good food trend watcher goes into depth here, dares to be specific and opens doors to future innovation.
Translating the trends into innovation
Because, in our opinion, trends are not an end in themselves. But a means to ultimately achieve successful innovation. And that’s where our food trend watchers evolve into food designers and food innovators. That’s when the innovation process starts, which is actually the core competence of our agency. Nevertheless, every year we inspire many companies with our trend presentations and studies. Because that’s where new thinking starts; thinking from the customer’s point of view and his or her wishes!