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Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2016: Webinar Q&As

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Daphne Kasriel-Alexander Bio

On January 28, 2016 the webinar "Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2016" examined how millennials will drive consumption in the new year, placing importance on local, greener options, a desire for control and an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing. These are the questions our audience asked after the webinar:

Do you think the athleisure trend will continue in its ascent? Yes, I do think so. It’s a statement of one’s interest in health and wellbeing as well as a way of saving time, being workout-ready. We live in an age that puts fitness, albeit an increasingly holistic understanding of it, on a pedestal, and this is its result. As Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of the NYT recently put it: “What is athleisure? It’s an expression of contemporary identity telegraphed to the rest of the world via clothes”. A very recent piece in on the Telegraph Online, the website of the British paper was titled: “15 trainers to wear everywhere but the gym”.

Do these trends also apply to Latin American countries like Brazil and Mexico? ­ I’d say so, yes. Of course, I’m looking at global trends, and there are regional and national differences. But overall, I think they do apply - especially, given the globalising influence of the internet, international travel and advertising in particular.

What would you choose as the main highlights for consumer foodservices for 2016? I think that consumer foodservice brands will respond to the heightened consumer interest in healthier, local, and more ethically-sourced food. Single spenders, often high-earning young urban creatives, enjoy eating out, combining adventure and socialisation. Brands responding to the consumer interest in healthy lifestyles and who feature ingredients that consumers feel will positively influence their mental wellbeing such as superfoods and whole grains, will successfully court health-aware consumers. Brands are responding fast. McDonald’s Next, just opened in Hong Kong, is the first in a new breed of branches designed to fit with the healthier eating expectation of customers - there’s a salad bar, and ingredients like quinoa and asparagus, and the chain plans to stop using chicken and milk from animals treated with hormones. With social responsibility more important to more consumers, restaurants and food service outlets looking for ways to give back will attract consumers wishing to dine and make a difference.

Despite your discussion of spending singles, a lot of young people stay at home with parents because it is too expensive to live on their own. This seems contradictory. I’m focusing here on more affluent single spenders but I agree that many so called ‘boomerang kids’ have found themselves having to return to the family home due to lack of funds, or work, and some have never left home. However, some of these Millennial offspring forced to live at home, have more disposable income, freed as they are from many of the typical household expenses that their parents continue to shoulder. Even if they have less to spend, their presence in the home leads to multigenerational households with different spending habits, adapted to suit the needs of adult offspring.

You talked about food waste, and companies like Dutch brand Kromkommer, a small company that has managed to turn food waste into a premium priced product by emphasising the fact that it would have been waste otherwise – can we expect more products like this? Yes, I think that by doing something genuine to combat food waste that’s part and parcel of their production process, brands will earn ‘brownie points’ in the eyes of the growing band of consumers who care about the environment and are looking to demonstrate this via their spending choices. In 2016, more consumers will care about cutting down on food waste in and beyond the home, try harder to avoid unhealthy food and overeating, and be keener on more natural, local and seasonal food. More of us will consider cheaper food past its best before date and shop in retail chains selling it.

At the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, French entrepreneur Nicolas Chabanne, promoted his ‘ugly mugs’ campaign, a bid to get more imperfect fresh food into more shops. Participating farmers and retailers (and there are 800 already on a list that includes major chain Carrefour), can display his label of a smiling apple with a single tooth if they agree to charge at least 30% less for these items.

Can we expect to see more consumer demands for more natural and greener food and is sustainability getting more relevant for the new generation? I do think so. The great thing is that we are living in a time when the marriage of business and social/sustainability concerns no longer sounds like a contradiction. We’re seeing founders of new start-ups building social change into their business plans. I think that consumer sustainability concerns, well documented in many international and local surveys, show that consumers will be scrutinising brand green credentials across the whole production process and openly discussing this on social networking, talkbacks and on blogs. With ingredients, we’re also into health and safety as well as traditional green territory. We have already seen criticism from US parent bloggers of a perceived lag in brand interest to incorporate more natural flavours in food popular with kids, for instance.

How can you link the zeitgeist for decluttering/consuming less/selling on to the trends you’ve discussed for 2016? I suppose the current interest in mental wellbeing, changing things for the better, and some aspects of green consciousness definitely engage with this notion. People who focus on mental wellbeing are pointing out that consumption is not just about things, and actually, the interest in mental wellbeing is part of a sustained broader rejection of consumption as merely the acquisition of more products – many have pointed to slower shopping day on Black Friday last year, for instance. Dr. Teresa Belton, author of “Happier People Healthier Planet: How putting wellbeing first would help sustain life on earth”, advocates the benefits of non-material thing. Much fuss has been made of the fact that for over a year, writer Marie Kondo’s guide to decluttering one’s life took the top slot on the New York Times bestseller list

Do you think the gender-blurring trend will extend to spheres like gaming? Although today, at least 50% of gamers are estimated to be women, due to the ubiquity of smartphones, so far, this industry has perhaps been lagging in this sense.

But more female heroines with admirable character traits and abilities are on the way – even coming to big budget games. E.g. Joule is the main character in ReCore, a Microsoft Studios game coming to Xbox this year. The lead writer of this game was quoted as saying that the male gender doesn’t have a monopoly on heroism. Also, one of the most loved female heroines in gaming, Lara Croft, is turning into less of a pinup and a more realistic and intelligent adventurer critics say.

How vocal are consumers against perceived greenwashing? I’d say that they continue to use the critical bite of social networking blogs and talkbacks to 'out' brands they perceive to be culprits of insincere brand displays of concern for the environment. Dishonest marketing strategies don’t sit well with consumers at all! For instance, on Facebook, there are over 3500 members of a group which targets cosmetics falsely labelled as natural.

­For you, what are the best examples of a circular economy, products having more than one lifecycle? ­ There are many expressions of the sharing economy. I think that brands recycling their own products, often offering carrots such as discounts in return for used goods, and consumers selling on ‘pre-loved’ items are perhaps the most interesting models.

­Do you see any significant change to how Millennials view owning their own transportation (automobiles) vs public transport? Yes, for younger consumers, a car is seen less as an icon of freedom and more of a strain on their finances and the environment. Green concerns are also behind the growing interest in public transport options, car services like Uber and the popularity of bike sharing services.

I am curious as to the extent of the gender fluidity trend, driven - it seems - by celebrities. And being "top-down" as opposed to other trends being more of a collective wave. Can you comment? Does it reflect a social movement? ­ In the sense that moves to bring about change are a ‘social movement’, you might say that gender fluidity is one. I don’t think it’s celebrity-driven, rather that celebrities expressing gender fluidity are able to help spotlight it. As I discussed, it’s often parents who campaign for less rigid gender classifications and expectations.

Any thoughts on the rise of mobile commerce? How will this change the industry? Will any area suffer as a result? I think that mobile commerce will change the buying landscape. For instance, geolocation on smartphones will continue to develop as a ‘discovery service’ informing passing consumers about nearby offers. But retailers with a good product, offering value that feels innovative and a fun buying experience will continue to attract consumers, many of whom feel there is no substitute for the pleasure of buying in bricks and mortar stores. The consumer interest in shopping in physical shops is one that is behind the interest in shopping tourism, for instance.

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