The big foodie trends – our digest of Food Matters Live

Didn’t get to Food Matters Live this year? Fear not. Here’s our ten minutes read of the interesting bits we saw and heard.

Sustainability the queen of the show

Consumer demand for more sustainable food and drink options was a big driving force of developments. Momentum around vegan and plant-based options continues – with a massive one third of brands and innovations presented connecting to this trend. Along with an abundance of free-from alternatives, vegetarian options and plastic-free inventions. The UK has never watched what’s happening in the sustainability space as much as today, and as for most innovations it often starts with easy food swaps. Once you start realising the amount of meat you eat and the amount of plastic covering what you buy you can’t turn back. So you turn to easy solutions that make you feel good whilst doing good.

Realising the health benefits of raw ingredients

There’s now a vast number of brands injecting ingredients to give us all that ‘health boost’ we’re keen to feel without doing the hard work! Turmeric and apple cider vinegar were the stars of the show. Obviously apple cider vinegar can’t cure major disease, but there is a great desire to move away from over the counter medication to more natural solutions to cure small illnesses. With the growing lack of trust in pharmaceutical companies, consumers will undoubtedly turn to more raw ingredients from their kitchens for simple health hacks at home.

Consumers expect transparency in everything

More than just knowing whether the packaging is recyclable or not, consumers increasingly demand clarity on the whole supply chain. And smaller, more innovative brands are doing an excellent job at being transparent on their whole supply chain process than the super brands. So beware! Consumers won’t be fooled and are likely to have more and more demanding expectations in the future.

Immersion in more ‘human’ brand stories

Food hasn’t felt like sustenance for at least a decade. With the growing importance of food in our lifestyles, our health, and even our Instagram accounts, consumers will expect to connect with the food they buy on a deeper, more personal level. It’s about looking good and feeling good. We met a carpenter from Wales who, after suffering from arthritis for years, got convinced by the benefits of turmeric and decided to launch his own health drink to cure it using only using local ingredients. He made recipes for years in his own garage before he got the right balance between taste and health benefits. These are the sort of powerful stories consumers want to get immersed in.

Packaging can’t be left till last!

We know from working with many brands that when it comes to packaging, a good intention to improve often doesn’t result in radical enough change. Packaging is the shop window of your product. When done well, packaging has the power to grab consumers’ attention and disrupt their automatic shopping mode. But when left to the end of the innovation pipeline or with little end user input that’s when poor sales and even consumer backlash can happen. For example, Mr Kipling moved to more individually packaged cake bars recently, but in doing so doubled the amount of plastic on their packaging. The resulting backlash was strong! Brands should put just as much effort into thinking about how their packaging design connects to consumer motivations as they do for what’s inside.

Kokoro Cuts – best of October

A round-up of the best new experiences and campaigns we’ve seen on our travels. Here’s what you need to know about.

Go bold or go home – Adidas, Gentle Monster, Louis Vuitton and H&M new store openings are worth talking about

At a time when high street closures are really hitting the headlines you can’t forget the importance of investing and experimenting in your physical estate – especially flagships. We’ve picked out four brands experimenting, being bold, providing fresh, new memories and high feel-good. First up – Adidas just opened its new Oxford Street flagship – its most digital store to date. This space fuels exploration – from the show-stopping entrance display to the lifts (which feel like you’re in a cool high rise) that get you upstairs. The store oozes desire in its trendy, fashion-led sections and customisation area; gets you immersed in ‘your run style’ with Running Lab and gets you feeling proud to belong to London with all the local touches. The VM is impressive, there are digital screens everywhere that are so huge and vibrant that the whole place has a feeling of energy. The digital changing room mirror is how to do easy in a memorable way – recognising which garments you come into the changing room with automatically so you can quickly ask for more sizes! On top of all that the staff reflect the passion and energy around this store whilst being a human friendly and approachable face in a high-tech space.

Memory-making Adidas LDN store

You won’t miss Louis Vuitton’s revamped London store – it’s a colourful marvel inside and out! Whilst most luxury Fashion brands dial up desire with paired-back, minimalist design, the brand has decided to go all-out on creating a feeling of happiness and we think that’s just what the UK needs right now! Keen to design more than just a shop and a space that wasn’t intimidating, could this ‘travel destination’ set the future bar for Luxury?

Louis Vuitton New Bond Street

H&M have launched two new stores of stark contrast. In Berlin it’s having a stab at going ‘hyper-local’ with Mitte Garten. Here H&M hopes to “offer a neighbourhood store serving as a platform for local and global talents within retail, culture and art”. The store has a vegetarian café, garden and boasts many talks and events! Whilst in Birmingham, H&M takes its Home concept outside of London for the first time and revamps its Bullring mecca! The brand has created an impressively stylish haven for home inspiration that goes far beyond what you might expect from this mass clothing retailer.

H&M Mitte Garten and H&M Birmingham

Gentle Monster takes eyewear to new heights with its latest store opening in Shanghai. If you haven’t been to a Gentle Monster store before we really would recommend – oodles of Desire, Immersion and Freedom. This is a customer experience you need to feel for yourselves. It breaks all the rules and is so intriguing you can’t help but wander in!

% ARABICA stirs up UK coffee market

Yes, we hear you…. yet another coffee chain… yawn…. But wait, this is quite a big deal. % Arabica already had 42 outlets globally with a big cult following. Its launch in the UK (with two new London stores) has come with much anticipation and it’s quickly made its way to the list of top London coffee shops. This experience is all about the coffee and the founder’s passion for creating it (they roast and produce it themselves). You get that impression as soon as you experience the stylish, clean, paired-back interior and menu. This is about letting the coffee speak for itself. It feels uber desirable and different. Most other trendy coffee shops capture a local, home-grown, quirky sentiment. Whilst here you get amazing coffee in a cup with the massive % logo on it to show just how trendy you are! Definitely one to watch!

And we’re off – Argos gets us all nostalgic as Christmas adverts roll

You’ll have to wait until our latest Christmas Unwrapped report is out to get the customer verdict on who’s won the battle of the Christmas ads, but right now we’re loving the feeling we get from the Argos Christmas advert. We can connect with this on so many levels – the nostalgic Argos catalogue (renamed ‘Book of Dreams) we all used to circle as kids at Christmas, that amazing song from the carefree 80s which takes us back to those goose bumps we got from The Breakfast Club, and that special bond of Dad and kid that’s often overlooked in campaigns. Can’t wait to see how it compares to all the others.

Lego makes us feel good about doing good – just in time for Christmas

Turns out we have a massive attachment to these iconic plastic bricks – Lego estimates a whopping 97% of consumers keep or share their bricks rather than throw them away. How many of us fall guilty to having some in the attic?! In its attempts to ‘share the power of play’ Lego has just launched a pilot reuse platform called Lego Replay in the US. People simply send off their bricks for free, which get sorted and cleaned and fed back into community projects so more kids can get new joy out of the bricks. Easy and feel-good. Lego are surely onto a winner. We wish more brands would think about the ‘ending’ they’re creating in their CX.

The brand has also launched a new iconic collectable which definitely chimes with desire for more ‘sustainable’ materials versus plastic. Its iconic mini figure has been given a wooden makeover! It’s only available in a Covent Garden pop up at the moment, but launches globally on 8 November. We think it’s going to make it to the top of many Christmas lists!

Our big Christmas predictions

Real spend will come late, but we’ll start ‘celebrating’ early

The gloom and fatigue of uncertainty means everyone is ready for some merriment and distraction. Things which enable us to start early, without any guilt. Immersive activities with family and friends will be popular. We’ll seek out the Christmas-mood on Netflix as early as possible, and make a trip to the Cinema for festive movies and traditional films which take us back to cosy, family times like Downton, Dickens’ David Copperfield and Cats. There could also be room for a few affordable buys (advent calendars, festive clothing and Christmassy candles/home fragrance).

We’ll break free of traditional presents and gift time

Indulging in a special activity or celebration will be a popular gift, a friendship group deciding on a meal out, posh cocktails or a theatre evening. Consumers will reject restrictive and impersonal coupons/tickets/vouchers and simply organise the event themselves. Putting pressure on traditional, shoppable present spending but creating opportunity for new players to enter the gifting market. Opening huge potential for restaurants and bars – especially as we know that an immersive dining experience will increase spending (of course we’re having the second bottle of wine… and dessert!)

To be a super-host we’ll need an inclusive offering

It’s not just the main event that needs to be delicious and beautiful, there needs to be something for everyone. Vegan and veggie options will up the ante on previous years making meat-eaters jealous and desperate to try – so will options for guests with special diets who require gluten/lactose/nut free. Plus, there will be extra pressure on the bar too – orange juice and lemonade won’t cut it  by non-drinkers, they’ll be expecting more choice and special options on no/low alcohol. Of course this means there could be many hosts buying as total novices, so visual short-cuts which cue ‘crowd-pleaser’ will win (awards, customer endorsements, show-stopper designs, familiar trends).

Definition of ‘perfect gift’ evolves – it’s personal, not personalised

We’ll start to see through name adornments, a token identity stamp. We’re looking for true personality, uniqueness, a story – something that feels chosen for you, not simply looks like it’s for you. A careful selection of favourite grocery items like breakfast cereal and chocolate spread will say I love you better than an embossed ‘A’ washbag. We’ll see a rise in ‘homemade’ gifts – which could mean crafting, or more likely a curation of the recipients most coveted low-cost products (mindfulness hamper, gaming night-in snacks, ingredients plus recipe for a new bake).

We’ll be conflicted between sustainability and tradition

While we’ll claim to be conscious angels the routine of rituals will mean a lot of mindless spending. We’ll preach that the world doesn’t need more plastic, but we won’t think twice about all the packaging surrounding our party food… until we’re clearing it up and feel pangs of disgust. We’ll nail the convenient switches – we predict Christmas cards to be a big casualty, no unnecessary paper and the effort save of finding all those addresses – win-win! We also predict a few big messages will cut through, we’ll seek out recyclable wrapping paper and forsake Christmas crackers. Simple, achievable and smothered in social pressure.

‘Gimmicks in disguise’ – we’ll cut back unnecessary frills for more wholesome unnecessary frills

Part sustainability driven, but mostly about being spending savvy, we’ll steer away from novelty extras and silly gifts. We’ll tell ourselves it’s all about being smart, but really they’ll be replaced with more immersive, authentic buys… gimmicks in disguise (Christmas bedding/cushions/throws, festive dining ranges, Christmas socks, pet accessories).

Desperate for social proof, we’ll all be drawn to shareable photo-opportunities

The tree might be decorated and the lights switched on, but the house isn’t truly ready for Christmas until the decorations are on Instagram. It’s not just the joy of soaking up the moment – we need a souvenir! With a focus on immersive festive moments and creating magic at home we’ll be desperate to share. Brands which create aspirational, shareable moments will enjoy the buzz of being talked about, and stick in our memories.

In just 20 minutes you’ll get to hear:

  • Our big Christmas predictions and the consumer sentiment/trends driving them
  • Who we think will be the winning and losing brands and categories
  • Why you should be adapting to evolving sentiment and buying habits over the festive season and how our Christmas Unwrapped insights can help you win

Magical brand growth or using every trick in the book?

Quiet voices are being heard amongst the noise, brands like The Ordinary gain huge popularity and chatter by leading with simplicity. There’s something about it that feels so natural. You might think all winners at the moment are intuitive, almost magic, but it’s an illusion! Emerging brands mislead us, it looks natural, when really it’s anything but. They purposely employ tactics to use our cognitive biases against us.

The latest store opening of Neon Sheep got us thinking. The store itself has a lot of energy, lots of buzzing customers…. but look closer and you can see it’s a masterclass in consumer nudging. And it looks to be working! Customers seem to be looking past the extreme use of plastic – very much a feel first, act second environment.

Primed to fall in love

Intention or coincidence, I’m not sure…but many Neon Sheep have opened next to brands like Oliver Bonas, Paperchase and card stores, where we are already primed to seek uniqueness and little impulse buys. So we can’t help but be drawn inside.

Attention seeking disruption

Neon colours strike from a distance, a giant pink sheep welcomes customers in and a family of lambs graze on the ceiling grass. There are lots of memorable, fun elements which both disrupt and provide us with something new for the gram.

Irresistible at arms reach

The layout places nearly all product at touching distance. It feels fun, we feel compelled to pick things up. But we know, once we physically hold something, it increases our attachment to it and we’re far more likely to buy.

Prices that feel almost consequence free

Simple, low price points on design-led and desirable product is a recipe for temptation. Blanket price points also help accelerate your need to buy – £2 all their greetings cards, a category renowned for quickly tipping into a little too expensive. The magic of the single-price point is that suddenly the only choice is ‘which design?’.

Chiming with millennials desire to ‘shelfie’

As the generation who boomerang to parents homes or rent for what feels like forever – it’s hard to create hygge escapes at home. We rely on accessories, no-nails-needed decorations to lift our spaces and give them our own stamp. Neon Sheep is bursting with products to create an enviable shelfie.

Balance – it’s bingeworthy

Healthy lifestyle, digital usage, self-care, career, relationships – it’s all about balance. Everywhere we look there are articles and supposed inspiring quotes about achieving an equilibrium. In a world where we seek limitless possibilities, where everything moves just a little too fast and we can all have almost as much as we want, traditional balance is nearly impossible. Instead – on/off binging is our way to achieve harmony.

We see this most in our consumption of television. Rather than an hour of TV a day, we watch none all week then a lazy Sunday sees us guzzling an entire series in an afternoon. Binging is the only way to watch the latest series of Stranger Things. The days of watching one episode of a drama a week feel pre-historic. We make crazy choices. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said their biggest competitor is sleep.

It’s no longer just Netflix, we’ll binge on anything

For more and more of us social media is feast or famine – we end up on Facebook looking at a school friends posts from 2014 or find ourselves lost in an Instagram rabbit warren. Then suddenly, we take a stand – rule it out of our lives, make pledges to put our phone away, delete the app or even our accounts entirely. So much content consumption seems to be like this – YouTube, Podcasts, favourite bloggers or journalists, it’s all or nothing.

Over the years, our travel has become a much more obsessive affair too. Of course the birth of the gap year was one of our first tastes – an intense 3 months binging on new sights and cultures. But now, even with just one week of holiday, we seek to pack in as much adventure, exploration and wild experiences as possible, then ignore this side of ourselves and hide away behind coffee dates, Friday night drinks and of course Netflix, for the rest of the year.

We even binge calm! Yoga retreats, digital detoxes, self-care weekends. For a few short days they are all-encompassing, honeymoons to recuperate after burning the candle at both ends. True moments of serenity are few and far between and for most absent from our daily routines.

Immersion will help brands get a slice of the action

Immersion calls to us, most of us love the sense of escape – we’re drawn to engaging experiences, things that envelop our senses, and moments like this make us want to stay. Here are 3 things you should think about:

  1. Showcase the allure – covetable experiences are all encompassing. Be single minded in the feeling you’re looking to elicit – be it empowerment, togetherness or simply something cosy and welcoming, make it powerful.
  2. Create a whole new world – there’s a reason why Stranger Things and Game of Thrones are some of our favourite binges, they transport us to somewhere completely different. It doesn’t have to be make-believe, we see this same quality in Ted Talks where it’s easy to get lost in a loop of great tips. Brands can also achieve it with physical experiences, just look at Lush.
  3. Make it easy – we’ll happily be swept along and won’t question it if it feels comfortable. So avoid anything that awakens us and invent new ways of keeping experiences seamless. What’s your equivalent to ‘the next episode will start in 7 seconds’ feature?

The explosive truth about consumer emotions – download our thought piece now

Kokoro is live!

Welcome. We’ve changed. We’ve not lost the best of ABA, the expertise, the partnership approach, yet we have a new mission. Kokoro means ‘heart’ in Japanese, and the name announces our pioneering approach to understanding customer emotions and how brands can leverage them.

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Why homewares are where the Millennial’s heart is

Our high streets continue to see an influx of homeware offerings from brands better known for clothing. ASOS has launched its own-brand Supply range just a few months after the debut of River Island’s RI Home collection. This blog explores what lies behind this trend and how it may well intensify.

Source: ASOS Supply, RI Home

As Millennials struggle to get on the housing ladder, and move from one rented property to the next, buying big-ticket items like kitchens, wardrobes or beds seems like a dubious investment – a mind-set change that put pressure on many furniture retailers.

At the same moment, young adults are actually spending more time at home as, saddled by student debt and often blocked in career terms, they can’t afford to go out as much. This has produced a cultural shift where the home is increasingly seen as a refuge from stressful everyday life.

However, cash-strapped and home-trapped though they may be, Millennials seem determined to make sure these refuges are stylish vehicles for self-expression – injecting personality through smaller, affordable,  accent pieces such as vases, knick-knacks or cushions. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that these are all hero items at the successful lifestyle and gifting chain Oliver Bonas, which has popularised inexpensive, quirky, handcrafted-style home décor.

Source: Handpainted ceramics range at Oliver Bonas

Unique designs and a homemade aesthetic tick two important boxes for this type of homeware shopper. It allows them to curate a collection of distinctive, identity-projecting items that are also flexible enough to fit changing lives and living spaces.

Beyond ceramics and trinkets, bigger pieces like a rug or a striking duvet cover can turn a room from drab and impersonal to bold and welcoming. This is particularly appreciated by students or younger professionals who are renting and cannot join in on other interior trends such as statement tiling, colourful blinds or moody wall paint.

Of course, putting your own stamp on your living space has always been a popular way of impressing friends and demonstrating status. Today, inevitably, social media has magnified this phenomenon. Artfully arranged interior shots and immaculate #shelfies are booming as décor begins to rival fashion or food as an Instagramable way of signalling lifestyle accomplishment. Once it was just OOTD or ‘look at my uber-healthy smoothie’, now it’s ‘check out my china’ too.

Source: #shelfie tagged posts on Instagram

Looking ahead, it’s clear that homeware players which supply low-cost kudos – whether through original designs or handcrafted character – will play well to a pressured generation whose lives are on show like never before.

Take a look at 3 factors behind the organising trend and what it means for retailers