5 Ways to Harness Trends Without Force-Feeding

5 Ways to Harness Trends Without Force-Feeding

Last month, I attended the Food & Drinks Trends and Insights Conference in London, where a wide range of food industry leaders spoke about current and emerging category trends and the challenges facing the industry.

There was, of course, great discussion on new trends – Hawaiian & Pacific Food, protein, new meats, white whisky, mead and seaweed – to name a few.  But there was also one fundamental question being asked: How do you get the balance right between being trend-led or consumer-led?

In other words, how do you prioritise the right trends (the ones that will stick) and translate them into products that consumers really want, instead of foisting them towards the consumer in the hope that they will embrace the trend?

At Untapped we see Future Forecasting and trends understanding as a critical part of any innovation effort.  But it’s important to balance this with a deep understanding of consumer desires, drivers and motivations – both functional and emotional.

At the conference, we heard from Maureen McDonagh from Facebook UK that there are 2.4 million interactions on food each day on Facebook in UK, 3x more than any other category.  So there is no doubt that consumers’ appetite for novelty and trends in food is high.  But how do you entice consumers with a trend rather than force-feed them?

At Untapped, we believe that if you want to avoid jumping on bandwagons and instead jump-start great product design, you should be doing these 5 things:

  1. Assess your target(s): It’s critical to get a clear picture of different target consumers and their receptivity to trends. There will always be an extreme trend and a counter-trend – and both may have their place. Sarah Whiddett, Head of Insight at Bidvest highlighted this challenge.  Their customers range from gastro-pubs in London to care homes in the north-east, so they know it’s essential to consider different prime prospects and sequencing of trends.  Or, as Ruth Stead, from Product Development at Asda summed up, when it comes to trends “one size does not fit all”.
  1. Trace the Roots of the Trend: It’s not enough just to spot a new trend, you need to understand where it came from and how it connects with your consumer. This means getting a deeper picture of how it connects to cultural changes and emerging codes within your category.  At Untapped, we do this via Future Forecasting with semiotics.  Think, for example, of the phenomenon of Pulled Pork trend –  It’s not just a delicious new cut of meat.  In a world of instant digital gratification, this slow-cooked experience tapped into a broader cultural trend in which consumers craved something lovingly made and carefully crafted.
  1. Identify the deep desires, drivers and motivations of your consumer – Trends turn into successful products when they connect meaningfully with consumers’ lives today and fulfill key emotional and functional desires. It’s vital to observe habits, understand desires and explore unarticulated needs through in-depth research to identify how trends can play out in the day-to-day life of your consumer.  As Kevin Verbruggen, Head of Innovation at Weetabix counselled, know why you are innovating and make any innovation easy to fit into consumers’ lives.
  1. Co-Create with your Consumer: Translating trends into ideas and products cannot be done in a consumer vacuum, or else the experience will miss the mark. It’s faster and more cost-effective to fully engage with the consumer in the development process, learn fast with prototypes and iterate as you go.  And it really works.  Ian Straughan of Pizza explained how their Hut Test Innovation “Lab” – 5 restaurants dedicated to innovation tweaking and testing – has helped drive >6% year-on-year growth for this previously troubled chain.  And Cassandra Stavrou, co-founder of the hugely successful Propercorn brand, explained how ring-fencing a “rough & ready” testing approach has been essential to drive their successful development.
  1. Use Stories to keep your consumer as hero (don’t hero the trend!): It’s easy to get carried away and immersed in cool new trends. It’s critical to remember that it’s actually all about the consumer.  The trend must enable a meaningful story for the consumer, where he/she has a new and different experience.  We use Innovation Stories to fuel concept and product development in a way that keeps the consumer firmly in the role of the hero, harnessing the new trend-inspired product in the role of enabler for a better experience in their life.


If you want to find out how to harness trends to design delightful product experiences with your consumer, we would love to hear from you!


Suzanne Allers
Suzanne Allers
[email protected]

Suzanne loves to apply creative and analytical thinking to connect the worlds of the consumer and technology, leading to breakthrough product design and communication.

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