The Innovation Group, the innovation and futurism unit of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, reveals the future of food and drink in its latest trend report. As the pace of innovation in food and drink accelerates—driven by digital media, advances in technology and a newly politicised awareness of food among consumers—the report offers a snapshot of today’s innovations and what they reveal about the food and drink consumers of the future.
“Today’s food and drink consumers are more sophisticated than ever before,” said Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group. “Our research shows that both US and UK consumers are placing increasing importance on food and drink as an experiential luxury and reflection of their personal identity. We also found that Millennials, despite their well-documented economic challenges, are demanding higher-quality food, visual stimulation, and technologically enhanced experiences.”
J. Walter Thompson’s Innovation Group’s ‘Future of Food & Drink trend report 2015’ includes a statistical introduction based on original data from SONAR, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research unit. Original data highlights include:
- 74% of US Millennials and 58% of UK Millennials believe that marijuana will become as socially acceptable as alcohol over the next decade.
- Foodie culture has gone mainstream, as it becomes an increasingly important part of personal identity. 4 out of 5 US Millennials say that they consider going out to eat to be a cultural experience.
- Ethnically minded consumers want ethnically minded brands. 93% of US Millennials and 79% of UK Millennials would support food brands that help society become healthier.
- 72% of US and UK Millennials are more likely to purchase gourmet or high-quality food today than they were several years ago.
- 72% of US and UK Millennials are more likely to share pictures of food and drink if it is different or unique, versus only 22% of boomers.
- More than half of US and UK Millennials use technology like apps and wearables to maintain a healthy diet.
- 62% of UK Millennials agree that online food delivery services have made meal preparation much easier for them, versus only 21% of boomers.
The report also features qualitative reporting that delves into the latest future-facing food and drink trends, as well as case studies of the best food and drink innovations.
Key trends include:
- Flexitarians: The new omnivores – Plant-based products are becoming indistinguishable from meat, while small-scale meat producers increasingly market their wares to vegetarians. We are all “flexitarians” now.
- Delivery futures – Ordering takeaway on smartphones is old news—get ready for curated delivery, delivery-only restaurants and even zero-cost delivery by self-driving car.
- Fat is back – Discourse around fat is changing. Far from being off the menu, it’s back and is being positively encouraged by brands and chefs in new products and ingredients.
- Food porn is the new norm – Awash in food imagery on social media, consumers are gravitating towards surprising and compelling images that aim more for the mind than the stomach.
- Cannabis connoisseurs – A wave of marijuana legalization in the US has freed beverage start ups to experiment with THC infusions, as well as non-intoxicating hemp concoctions. The majority of consumers surveyed across Millennials, Gen X and Boomer generations agree that marijuana will be as socially acceptable as alcohol over the next decade.
- Health meets hedonism – Health-conscious Millennials are having their cake and eating it too when it comes to alcohol, gravitating toward healthier mixers and mashing up exercise with hedonism.
- Not your mother’s “Tom Collins” – The cloying cocktails of the 1970s and 80s were long considered passé, but they are making a comeback as mixologists reinvent them for sophisticated, modern palates.
Virtual sensoria – Experiential marketing for beverages is becoming more immersive as drink brands dip their toes into virtual reality storytelling.
Lucie Green, J Walter Thompson’s Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group comments on some key trends:
Tech: the impact of new technology
“Like most aspects of our lives now, food and drink are being impacted by new strides in technology—from clever kitchens that can create menus for us intuitively based on leftover ingredients on our kitchen table; to image-sensitive apps that can assess the nutritional value of a piece of food from a photo; to a proliferation of food delivery apps that bring gourmet, curated, vegan and personalized menus to our doors within 30 minutes.
“The digital landscape of social media and sharing platforms meanwhile is providing a rich plethora of instant, detailed information about sourcing and ingredients, meaning that all our food choices will become much more informed and not only that—regulated by the crowd. Brands will have to embrace a new era of ultra-transparency or risk being caught out.”
Post “Artisan”: presenting food in unexpected ways
“After years of over-laboured ‘artisan’ and visceral rustic ‘food porn’ imagery, we’re seeing a new modern, playful, quite irreverent approach to food and drink emerging. New environments are moving beyond ‘authentic craft’ visual cues to embrace new clean, futuristic, colourful stylings. Creative food photographers are presenting food in unexpected, graphic and surreal ways.
“Cocktail classics of yesteryear, long relegated to the dustbin of cheesy nightclubs, are being reinvented with a gourmet twist (unapologetically celebrating the synthetic hues of retro ingredients such as crème de menthe and blue curaçao.
“Meanwhile, even the wine category is being treated with a wink: See hit Instagrammer The Fat Jew (aka @thefatjewish) and his hit sensation White Girl Rosé, which launched this year.”
Have it all culture: indulgence and well-being co-exist
“From wanting cocktails that are healthy to craving meat without the guilt, consumers are striving to have it all when it comes to their food and drink habits. The new language around health food is one where indulgence and well-being can coexist—fats (so long as they are pure and unfettered) are good for you.
“Forget the calories. A splash of cold pressed fruit juice can amply nullify the damaging effect of alcohol. Booze and fitness can also be enjoyed together, as we’re seeing from new after-dark exercise events such as Voga Bonbonniere—one hour of yoga, followed by drinks. Or Equinox’s After Dark events.
“Marijuana is great—so long as you describe it as ‘gourmet’ and it comes with a sommelier. And meat is fine to eat, so long as you know how it’s been slaughtered—better yet if you’ve done it yourself.”
Food 360: viewing food and drink holistically
“What’s clear is that consumers are viewing their food and drink holistically. It’s not about product or service or ingredients—brands and retailers are being assessed on what a product does to the environment, their supply chain, how they treat their staff from production to service, whether their ingredients are natural, and more.
“Our survey found that consumers were not only more considerate of environmental impact in their food and drink purchase decisions, but also that they were increasingly open to new alternative sources of protein, such as insects.
“Food is also taking on a bigger role in our culture in general. Access to affordable healthy food is becoming a political platform. Food conferences and leading chefs are spilling into thought leadership territory. Our survey found that millennials in particular see food experiences as a cultural activity.”
CONVERGENCE: in categories and treatments in food and drink
“We’re seeing a big convergence between categories and treatments in food and drink—it’s fueling not only creativity but also inspiring a raft of new hybrid categories.
“In our Culinary Cocktails trend, we look at how increasingly the mixologist world is borrowing from Michelin starred chefs to innovate—using fat washes and sous vide treatments.
“Beauty and food categories are also borrowing from each other. Hemsley + Hemsley are creating rich desserts made from coconut oil and avocado, extolling the virtues not just for health, but skin and nails. New food products are appearing with skincare and well-being language or properties.
“You’re also seeing new players enter the food space. Farfetch, a fashion retailer, launching Farfetch Curates Food is a testament to how food and fashion are increasingly intertwined in the minds and passions of consumers.”
Photography by David Sykes
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About the Innovation Group
The Innovation Group is J. Walter Thompson’s futurism, research and innovation unit. It charts emerging and future global trends, consumer change and innovation patterns — translating these into insight for brands. It offers a suite of consultancy services, including bespoke research, presentations, co-branded reports and workshops. It is also active in innovation, partnering with brands to activate future trends within their framework and execute new products and concepts.
The Innovation Group is part of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, a platform for global research, innovation and data analytics at J. Walter Thompson Company. It houses three key in-house practices: SONAR, Analytics, and the Innovation Group.
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