Trend Blog

Our team of Trendspotters looked back over 2017 and talked with their colleagues about the most intriguing products, services and messaging they had seen. At Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, “brailling the culture” – meaning scouring the consumer landscape for emerging cultural currents – means we are always searching for instances of “where the future is leaking into the present,” as Faith likes to say. We then use these insights to track the 17 proprietary Trends in our TrendBank and apply this future thinking to our consulting projects for the Fortune 500.

Here are a couple of key indicators of what intrigued us:

• Forbidden Beef: The Impossible Burger, a vegan burger, served only at a few restaurants right now, “bleeds” like real beef. The secret lies in an ingredient called “heme” which is plant-derived and gives raw meat its pinkish hue. (Plant proteins are wheat-derived, so, no, it’s not gluten-free.) Our vegetarian taste-testers said it was the most delicious meat-free option they’d tried in over a decade of sampling such products. The next step for this burger is mimicking the complex variety of textures that animal fat provides to a burger.

There’s more evidence of the shift away from meat: Sonic launched a part beef, part mushroom burger this year, to appease rising interest in going semi-meatless, and Friday’s is offering the Beyond Burger (meatless) at select locations. Amy’s, the brand that’s been creating sold-in-supermarkets healthy fare for almost 30 years, is about to open several more Amy’s Drive-Thru’s – 100% vegetarian, organic, local, non-GMO fast-food restaurants, serving no-meat burgers, burritos, and more. They hope to compete directly with McDonald’s, Burger King and the other leading players. Not only quick-serve and fast-food restaurants need to take note, though. The butcher section of the supermarket and the amount of meat in ready-to-serve, home-delivered, and meal-kit boxes will also have to heed this trend away from beef.

Worth considering: The Impossible Burger has not been approved by the FDA but is “GRAS”: Generally Recognized As Safe. Consumer interest in spite of this speaks to how experimental our tastes have become. As our founder and CEO Faith Popcorn has said, “Meat is on Tobacco Road.” Between its negative health and environmental impact, it will see continued declines. It’s the nexus of our Being Alive, Save Our Society and Icon Toppling Trends.

• All-Day Alcohol: Our team had a new kind of Boozy Brunch in Brooklyn. We sampled the Baba Cool’s Boozy Dragon Bowl, a typical, mega-health-packed acai bowl with some rosé added to it. We couldn’t ask for a better example of the cultural current we call Detox/Retox, which captures the warring impulses that play out in the realm of food. Millennials in particular experience no cognitive dissonance with drinking green juice, going to yoga class – and then heading out for a night of hard drinking. They are, in fact, increasingly influencing our society to marry fun and function, especially when it comes to food and drink. Food and beverage manufacturers and marketers, as well as those in the restaurant and hospitality industries, would be well advised to take a closer look at this growing direction.

Worth considering: Our 99Lives Trend reveals that we increasingly “live in the blur,” meaning that work and personal lives blend seamlessly; digital nomadism gives rise to a dissolution of boundaries; and dayparts lose their traditional delineations. As this rises as a new lifestyle, we predict that food, booze, and the modulation health (both physical and mental) will hybridize into offerings that suit consumer needs 24/7.

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