Great innovation requires inspiration and trends are a great place to start.

There are hundreds of potential sources,  so we have synthesised the nine key trends that we’ll be watching.

Whatever the source of the trends, they are really only of any commercial value if they help you unlock innovation opportunities.

Our new two-step process helps you illuminate interesting trends and unlock commercial success.

Give us a call or drop us an email. If you share your challenge we can use our one-day workshop module or design a bespoke process to match your challenge & budget and turn your trends into great innovation ideas for 2017.


Wellness affects almost all the key themes for the coming year, with a ‘cleaner’ approach impacting on all areas of life.

Nowhere is this trend more obvious than in food, where  ‘clean eating’, championed by Deliciously Ella, James Duigan and now even Jamie Oliver, has seen ‘real’ food become a hot topic.

We’ve observed consumers taking a greater interest in what goes into their food: avoiding processed and sugar-laden products; increasingly choosing free-from; and embracing a new, more positive attitude towards fat and protein.

Mainstream supermarkets have caught on and are rapidly building their healthy eating credentials to compete on a serious level with specialist stores and healthy fast-food venues.

The snacking sector has been the fastest to capitalise on wellness with launches featuring buzz ingredients, such as nut butters, coconut oil and chia seeds.

We’re excited to see how some of the more weird and wonderful health-focused flavours, like turmeric and kombucha will impact.

Mighty Veg:

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

Whilst a minority have really embraced the concept of ‘raw’ eating,  many consumers freely admit they struggle to get anywhere near their 5.  The challenge remains to find ways of sneaking more vegetables into our diet and even promoting vegetables as the ‘main event’.

The next stage of the veggie takeover will look beyond green juices to find practical ways to enhance our everyday food products. This will tie in neatly with a growing focus on alternative sources of protein, in particular looking at plant-based protein options.

In restaurants we have already seen a veg-forward attitude begin to surface, with Bruno Loubet championing veg as the main focus of a dish in his restaurants and the ‘root to stem’ approach, which mimics the ‘nose to tail’ dining attitude in order to make the most of seasonal vegetables.

It’s going to be an interesting year, with innovation predicting veggies hidden in everything from yoghurts and ice cream, to tea and pasta!

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.

Running parallel to this trend is a growing focus on a ‘simple’ approach to food – in particular, locally sourced and naturally processed. Consumers want 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.

A growing section of consumers are hunting out products that are as natural as possible in order to retain the ‘goodness’ and these shoppers aren’t afraid to pay, with ‘values not value’ becoming increasingly relevant.

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.

So far we have seen everything from Maille’s ‘smart spoon’, which remembers a person’s flavour preferences in order to make tailored recommendations, to the introduction of bespoke vitamin showers in some hotels, allowing guests to choose a combination that will address their personal requirements.

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.

The move from mass manufacturing to tailored or even ‘craft’ solutions that truly reflect the individual consumers needs and tastes will be a challenge, but one that 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 2016 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. 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’ll also be on the look out for experimental flavours and unusual pairings – Marks & Spencer’s Winter Berries and Prosecco Crisps in the UK and Lays Cappuccino Flavoured Potato Chips in the States have both recently caught our eye, and there have been predictions that floral flavours, such as lavender, rose and hibiscus, will feature in the coming year too.

Restaurants are usually a great predictor of future trends and we’ve seen new approaches inspired by heritage foods and rethinking cultural classics including ‘Hawaiian poke’ and ‘New Jewish’ menus starting to appear.

We anticipate a very tasty year!


2016 is going to be a big year for sustainability as consumers’ concerns about the planet evolve.

Consumers are coming to expect sustainable packaging, but with the notable exception of Unilever and Coca-Cola, few big brands have embraced it yet. 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.

Food waste is becoming a ’cause’.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s 2015 documentary highlighting the fate of mishapen vegetables is picking up consumer support. A student venture in Wales and French supermarket chain ‘Intermarche’s Inglorious Fruit and Vegetable’ scheme are great examples of how brands can make ‘ugly’ acceptable.

The COP21 climate change talks at the end of 2015 will drive a more sustainable attitude to meat, with many consumers expected to embrace a flexitarian approach. Some major brands are starting to look for new options to meat-based products, with even Ikea publishing a report exploring alternative protein sources for its iconic meatball!

Shopping Savvy:

As with all trend round-ups, there’s always one that seems to point in the opposite direction to the others.

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 Volkswagan 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 2016 as recessionary pressures reduce and consumers have a little more breathing room. What we’ll be on the look out for is whether we start to see any overlap or common themes emerge between this and the other trends.

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 is getting too loud to ignore.

The response from brands is fascinating, with innovative solutions popping up all over the place. Starwood Hotels & Resorts have recently launched an app that enables guests to FaceTime staff at any hour of the day, allowing consumers to get in touch without having to leave their room, or even their bed.

New food delivery services, such as Deliveroo, allow hungry consumers to order food from their favourite restaurants at the click of a button, while new companies, such as Hello Fresh, offer to deliver boxes with everything consumers need to make a delicious, fresh meal from scratch. In the US, Amazon are also branching out into grocery delivery, suggesting that in the not-too-distant future consumers will be able to use Amazon for all their needs.

In an extreme example of what at-your-fingertips tech can do, IKEA this year launched Online Wedding. The service allows couples to virtually invite guests from all over the world and bring them together at a cyber venue decked out in IKEA furniture in order to watch them get married online via what is effectively a mass group Skype.

The mind boggles at what might come next!

The Snack is King:

The past decade has seen a huge change in the way we eat – for many the concept of three meals a day has disappeared in favour of all-day grazing to fit in around their lifestyle.

The traditional table-based meal occasion has all but disappeared as the shared meal-occasion increasingly gravitates in front of the TV.  We are also increasingly seeing consumers share the meal occasion, but eating different foods and time-shifted eating where mums effectively run fast-food style cafeterias for their kids!

This modern, more-fluid working day model means that ‘traditional’ meal occasion no longer exists and the ‘snacking but with real food-values’ sector is growing to serve the need for fast, real, satisfying food on the go.

Snacking is a brilliant sector to watch for trend forecasting – long before any other area, we were seeing a rise in consumer interest in savoury over sweet, high protein over carb and the increasing popularity of spicy flavours. The line between light meals and snacking will continue to blur.  Opportunities are growing for both more indulgent and yet authentic, and more nutritious and yet satisfying initiatives for in-home and on-the-go consumption in 2016.