Great innovation requires lots of inspiration, so social and market trends can be a great place to start!

2016 seems to be one of those years that lots of people can’t wait to put behind them, so we’re putting our ‘best foot forward’ … and having reviewed dozens of sources, here are our top twelve trends to stimulate your imagination in 2017.

Whatever the source of the trends, they’re really only of any commercial value if you use them dynamically to help unlock innovation opportunities.

Our proven two-step approach to generating ideation-springboards helps you illuminate interesting trends … and and use them to unlock commercial success.

Give us a call or drop us an email. Share your challenge and we’ll help you work out whether our one-day workshop module matches your requirement … if not, we’ll build you a bespoke process that matches your challenge, timing & budget.

Either way, we’ll help you turn these and your own bank of trends (if you’ve got them) into the springboards for great innovation ideas in 2017.

Applied Intelligence:

The Internet of Things has been on just about everybody’s list of upcoming trends for the last few years. But sadly, so far, it just hasn’t caught on? The issue lies in interoperability. In theory, the IoT is supposed to connect all our devices together seamlessly. Sadly that hasn’t been the case … until now!

Whilst WeMo, Hive & Co have all been pretty cool, they had a worrying tendency to overload the average domestic WiFi network.

With Amazon’s Echo and Google Home entering the market during 2016, plus Apple and Samsung not far behind, the global tech behemoths are wading into the ‘smart home’ space and rapidly turning it from dream into a reality. The race is well underway for third party hardware suppliers to align their offerings and deliver meaningful benefits to consumers. We think 2017 is going to be the breakthrough year

FMCG businesses like RB and Johnson Wax have already discovered the ‘trade-up’ gains to be made from adding intelligence to everyday products … the challenge now is to find ways of unlocking the full potential of the inter-connected home

MicroBrands to MegaBrands:

Whilst it is still undeniably true that just 10 multinational businesses control the a vast number of the food and drink brands we consume, there has been a clear acceleration in the trend for smaller, more nimble brands to grow by using new media to connect in real time and build trust and authenticity with their customers.

Whilst this trend isn’t wholly new, it is important. Two-thirds of the top CPG brands saw sales decline in 2015 and the top 5 lost $13 billion in sales. People are not eating less; they are choosing the brands that mirror their needs and values. Smart CPG companies like General Mills and Coca-Cola are acquiring, but not just for the brands, but for the talent that understands today’s consumer and the information age.

Smaller companies have long been the crucible for category innovation and reinvention, but we suspect 2017 will be the year that the smart major brands begin to re-engage with the concept of the disruptive category incubator and begin experimenting with the value creation potential of: imagination, nimble production processes, new communication tools and business models to reinvent markets.

Authenticity in Relationships:

2016 was the year in which truth became irrelevant in politics and the news. Loss of consumer confidence looks set to continue as a major issue in 2017 and beyond.

Interestingly, in 2016 we undertook a couple of projects that really flagged to us the huge importance consumers place on their social networks and consumer-reviews when it comes to working out what is real, true and in their best interests. Over 25% believe their contacts are a more reliable source of information than what is said on the TV, radio and in newspapers!

Whilst social media networks have been accused of creating impenetrable social silos, they do provide brands who are willing to change the way they think about interacting with their consumers an invaluable opportunity to create real-time relationships

We could all learn a lot from the way Unilever and BMW have been using their relationships with Google and Social Media to build ongoing, dynamic relationships with their consumers that are perceived to have true authenticity and integrity

For brands willing to move to the ‘always-on’ listening, innovating and communicating model, 2017 could be a breakthrough year


Wellness affects almost all the key themes for the coming year, with not just a desire for a ‘cleaner’ approach impacting on all areas of life … but also a resurgence in interest in the natural functionality of foods

We’ve observed consumers taking a much greater interest in what’s going on inside their food: avoiding processed and sugar-laden products; increasingly choosing free-from; and embracing a new, more positive attitude towards fat and protein. Nowhere is this trend more obvious than the ‘clean eating’ movement, championed in 2015 and 2016 by Deliciously Ella, James Duigan and now even Jamie Oliver.

The greater emphasis on positive wellness has coincided with consumers waking up to the presence of hidden sugar in huge numbers of everyday foods whilst this hasn’t yet translated into a willingness to accept less-sweet tastes, its hard to see any other long-term outcome.

We have also completed a couple of projects in 2016 exploring how new wholesome, natural and even fortified products can meet consumer relevant needs for functional wellness benefits by leveraging claims that have been approved by EFSA.

2016 has demonstrated that consumers have a growing appetite for wholesome, positive-foods including wholegrains, legumes, pulses, natural nuts, nut butters, coconut oil, cold-pressed oils, quinoa and chia seeds and even kombucha

We suspect that 2017 may be the year Wellness goes mainstream!

Plant Power:

After over a decade of campaigning about the importance of getting their ‘5 a day’, consumers are finally starting to get the message.

Whilst the majority still cheerfully admit they regularly fail to achieve their ‘5 a day’ a growing minority are really beginning to embrace the concept of ‘raw’ eating.  The challenge has remained to find ways of sneaking more vegetables into our diet and even promoting vegetables as the ‘main event’.

2016/6 were the heyday of the green juice and veggie smoothie revolution. 2016 saw the beginning of an interesting growth of interest in legumes, pulses and grains like lentils and quinoa in everything from snacks to wholesome, healthy light meals.

The next stage of the plant-power takeover looks likely to be a move from diary and meat alternatives into green-by-choice food products. This will tie in neatly with a growing focus on alternative sources of protein, in particular looking at plant-based protein options.

2016 saw veggies hidden in everything from yoghurts and ice cream, to tea and pasta!

But it also saw some interesting new initiatives from brands like Tilda and Kerry Foods’ Pure brand.

2017 looks like it might potentially be even more interesting.

Storytelling + Simplicity:

A growing interest in the integrity of what we buy is placing a far greater importance on the role of product story.

This trend is particularly relevant to the food industry – consumers are on the look out for what is and isn’t ‘real’ food and it’s becoming increasingly important to establish a link to a product’s background and to connect with and showcase its producers.

Negative media coverage relating to the amount of ‘hidden’ sugar in everything from soft drinks to chicken stock, sliced cheese, bacon, even smoked salmon and crackers has rocked consumer confidence in the integrity of everyday foods.

Running parallel to this trend is a growing focus on a ‘simple’ approach to food – in particular, locally sourced and naturally processed. Consumers wanting food in which they can recognise the original ingredients, searching out ‘field to fork’-style products for peace of mind.  A recent US study showed that 36% of consumers worry about ‘chemicals’ in food, while 40% say it’s ‘very important’ that foods use all-natural ingredients, free of GMOs and artificial flavours and colours.

in 2017 we believe the availability of technologies which Forbes have coined Augmented Transparency will allow consumers to make on-demand deep-dives into nutritional information, ingredients and sourcing integrity right across the supply chain.

The Personal Touch:

Consumers are beginning to expect a personalised experience in all walks of life and brands are picking up on this trend in some truly exciting ways.

Consumers are increasingly expecting products to adapt to suit their personal needs and a number of brands have already started working directly with consumers for NPD, giving them greater control in the development of products. For example, Marriott, recognising that millennial travellers expect so much more from a travel experience than their predecessors, have launched an incubator scheme which encourages hotel staff to engage with travellers and then pitch creative new ideas back to the brand.

New retailers like Stitch Fix have taken it a step further, using AI to learn their online shoppers’ preferences and behaviours based on your web searching and Instagram browsing history – to curate a personalise offering of up to 5 garments a month for its clients to sample and potentially keep!

But it’s not just an opportunity for service and online delivery models Nike have already delivered personalised training shoe designs and there are suggestions 2017 will be the year in-home 3D printers become a reality

The move from mass manufacturing to tailored or even ‘craft’ solutions that truly reflect individual consumers’ needs and tastes will be a challenge, but one big brands will have to address quickly if they want to play in premium spaces.


Taste Explosion:

Experiments in flavour and texture are firmly established on our 2017 watch list. Consumers’ palates are getting more adventurous and there is a growing demand for increasingly exotic and unusual flavours that deliver a heightened eating experience.

Whole Foods Markets are forecasting that ‘purple food’ including purple cauliflower, sweet potatoes, corn and asparagus will move into the mainstream in everything from chips to alternatives to wheat-based pasta

Texture is also becoming increasingly important, with in-depth sensory descriptions becoming more common on packaging in order to tempt consumers.

The most recent McCormick Flavour Forecast predicts a burst of bold, spicy and tangy flavours, with more multicultural inspiration influencing new products, particularly in the snack aisle.

We’ve already seen mainstream brands like like M&S explore experimental flavours alike Winter Berries & Prosecco Crisps in the UK and Lays explore Cappuccino Flavoured Potato Chips in the States. Based on projects we undertook in 2016, we’re happy to predict that even floral flavours, like lavender, rose and hibiscus, will feature in the coming year!

Looks like 2017 has potential to be a very colourful and tasty year!


2017 is going to be a big year for sustainability as consumers’ concerns about the planet evolve.

Transparent labelling has become a badge of pride for smaller, craft producers, but will become increasingly mainstream as shoppers demand the right to make more informed choices. These smaller producers have raised expectations that are being met by few of the major players. Consumers are increasingly coming to expect sustainable packaging, yet with the notable exception of Unilever and Coca-Cola, few big brands have embraced it yet.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s 2015 documentary highlighting the fate of mishapen vegetables is picking up consumer support. French supermarket chain ‘Intermarche’s Inglorious Fruit and Vegetable’ scheme was a great example of how brands can make ‘ugly’ acceptable … and was quickly followed by a number of UK supermarket brands.

Unilever have mounted a couple of very clever campaigns focusing on the frightful waste of pumpkins at Halloween and Christmas food over the Holiday season. But we suspect a combination of ethical and economic factors will result in 2017 becoming the year when Food waste becomes a major ’cause’ for media and public alike.

This is likely to raise some really interesting challenges around portionability, resealabilty and even food storage hygiene.

Shopping Savvy, Shopping Smart:

Whilst initially driven by recessionary pressures, the rise of stores like Aldi and Lidl demonstrates that there is a category of consumers who, rather than embracing the ‘values not value’ attitude identified by most trend-forecasters, place greater emphasis on ‘savvy’ shopping.

Savviness doesn’t mean that shoppers aren’t expecting a good standard of quality from products, but there is a badge of honour for the bargain-hunter who buys the Basics range and ‘won’t be fooled’ by colourful brand advertising. The thinking is similar to that of buying a Skoda, because it’s a Volkswagen at a fraction of the cost – low price and adequate quality are key.

Shopping savvy means that price and functional attributes are the key priorities, with more emotional values like sustainability, ‘real’ food, product story etc firmly relegated to secondary considerations.

We have heard quite a few consumers who view ‘savvy’ shopping as a rejection of the ‘marketing con’.  It’ll be interesting to see how this theme evolves in 2017 as post Brexit exchange pressures increase and restrict consumers’ spending power.

In the longer term what will be truly fascinating is the impact of Amazon Go and other retail automation experiments are likely to have – and whether they will simply increase the efficiency of the shopping process for consumers, or by driving cost out of the grocery distribution chain whether that will also save the consumer money and disrupt the retail model still further.

At Your Fingertips:

In a ‘right now’ culture, brands have to move fast to keep up with the demand for a tech-based delivery in all areas of life.

2015/16 saw innovative tech-enabled solutions popping up all over the place. Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched an app that enables guests to FaceTime staff at any hour of the day, allowing consumers to get in touch with a Starwood team-member without ever having to leave their room, or even their bed!

New food delivery services, such as Deliveroo and now UberEats allow hungry consumers to order food from their favourite restaurants at the click of a button.

In the US, Amazon haven’t just branched out into grocery delivery, they are exploring everything from click and collect for grocery orders through Dash Buttons to drone delivery for everyday parcels. In effect, virtually everything you could need to sustain everyday life if soon going to be available at your fingertips from amazon

AI is being harnessed by online retailers to make the online shopping experience more immersive, personal and relevant. For example North Face is using IBM’s Watson to support natural language questions about how you plan to use garments and collate weather forecasts with delivery requirements … before making personal recommendations

As AI and new delivery models integrate 2017 is going to get more exciting than ever.


Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” was the unanticipated phenomenon of 2016 and we suspect it will continue to exert its influence in 2017. It’s derived from the Norwegian word for “well-being,” and you can feel hygge, be hygge, or do hygge.

Hygge didnt happen by accident. It was unleashed on an unsuspecting Britain at the end of 2015 by a writer at the BBC who published an article on the BBC website in October 2015. It touched a nerve and went on to stimulate the publication of dozens of books, hundreds of articles and millions of Instagram posts.

It is a concept that has been used to flog everything from fake-fur throws and hot-water bottles, to Scottish woollen blankets and hyggelig tableware that favoured sharing and simplicity.

Whilst it may feel a little late to flag it as an important trend, but we suspect that as economic and political factors come together over the first few months of 2017 its snug, homely cosiness may be exactly what consumers will be seeking in 2017

We think a return to nostalgia, cosiness, comfort and a sense of emotional and sensory security could be a very important theme for innovators this year.