In any business, it is important to watch consumer and industry trends. This is one way to keep ahead of the competition; another is to create the trends and lead the industry. The struggles to lead are as important, or even more important than the problems of being a competitor trying to play catch up.
The following are some bold ideas and trends which started in 2016 or 2017 but will be more evident in 2018:
Mushrooms. The use of mushrooms has gone beyond food, but also as an infusion in beverages. This trend has already started in Asia, where mushroom-infused coffee and tea have been increasing in the region. Some even use red mushrooms as additional ingredients in various drinks. In addition, mushrooms as food continues to gain in popularity. Mushrooms are a rich source of umami flavor, and more mushrooms types have become more popular in recent years. Western countries have used mushrooms for years; however, they have been slow to innovate the use of mushroom other than in food. The popularity of mushroom will grow to include non-food products, like soap and shampoo.
Technology. Food safety is getting bigger. Food technologies in various countries have put an emphasis on keeping food fresh. These include diverse technologies to determine the freshness of food, as well as other technologies meant to keep track of food or ingredient history. The new food technology includes sniffers which can detect the level of spoilage of greens and other vegetables.
Blockchain technology is also under development to keep track of food history, including where it came from and how it got to the vendor and the end-user. These methods help keep the food secure, and safe. Other technologies help keep the food fresh by keeping track of date of purchase, and date they were harvested or manufactured. This helps the user to determine which package of fresh vegetables to use first. These new food technologies will soon be on the market without the consumer knowing it.
Focus on the Individual. Coke started a campaign where the bottles have names on them. Soon the bottles will not only have first names, but also last names. This is not a far-fetched idea. With the help of big data and enormous data collection efforts, it is now possible to have a soda pop bottle with your name on it. The technology exists to have total customization, which would also enable the product with your name on it visible where you would normally buy it. Customization does not only mean a name – it can also be a trigger. Some people will buy anything with a Hello Kitty logo, while others will buy only purple items. This kind of information is currently available to marketers online via social media. The information borders on privacy issues, but since it is a trivial matter, the consumer does not notice it.
More Plant-based Products. Plant-based meat has been gaining traction. This trend will continue in the years to come. Soy-based artificial meat will expand marketing channels to groceries everywhere. More people will have access to this innovation. Although currently an expensive product, the economics of scale will pull down the prices with more consumers buying these products.
The underlying concept here is technology and innovation. In fact, for mushrooms, consumers are following a trend which has been growing for more than a decade. It is time that the U.S. consumers caught up with the rest of the world. The rest is about innovation addressing issues and concerns, and have grown enough to be a marketing handle.