Seismic changes ahead for brands in food consumption and consumer behaviour

by Louise Burgers. There are seismic cultural shifts happening across the globe that will impact on generations to come. This year heralds a new decade in which we will see significant changes in consumer behaviour, said JWT in its Future 100 report.

by Louise Burgers. There are seismic cultural shifts happening across the globe, spanning continents, that will impact on generations to come. This year heralds a new decade and a decade in which we will see significant changes in consumer behaviour – much like we did at the turn of this century as the internet matured and in this past decade of social media infiltration and the rise of ecommerce. For 2020, it is the consumer that is largely driving change.

I’ve always loved tracking consumer trends as they are a barometer not just for what consumers are buying or wearing or doing; but of mood, cultural shifts, micro trends that may spawn a new dining style, to macro trends that will change a generation. Above all they give you hope. Understanding trends can give any business a plan for the future, even when the present looks bleak.

Every January, The Innovation Group from JWT Intelligence releases its Future 100 top consumer trends for the year. The Future 100: Trends and Change to Watch in 2020 is a snapshot of the year ahead and the “most compelling trends” to note, charting 10 emerging trends across 10 sectors from marketing to culture; travel and finance.

As JWT asserts: “The turn of the new decade heralds a marker for positive change after the despondent and unsettling mood that characterised the latter part of the 2010s. As brands and consumers alike eagerly adopt a cautiously optimistic outlook and band together, it’s setting a new tone for the year and decade ahead. We’re seeing increased global activism, new ethically-driven value systems for brands and irresponsible companies and figureheads being held accountable for wider social and environmental issues.”

This is what Emma Chiu, global director: Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, had to say: “What’s in store for 2020? Ethically motivated consumers have created a new value system for brands, one that protects consumers, preserves culture and provides hope. They are also inspiring improvements to existing environmental promises, as leading brands go beyond carbon neutral initiatives and announce climate-positive plans.

“Wellbeing and sustainability now go hand in hand, with consumers caring as much about the health of the planet as about their own health. In food and drink, recipes are being cooked up to futureproof our entire ecosystem, while in hospitality, hotels are cementing ‘well’ standards into their environments.

“Consumers have laid the foundations for change and now forward-thinking brands are working towards building an optimistic and reassuring future for all,” Chiu concluded.

The 10 emerging trends
Hamleys South Africa.

1. Culture: Optimistic futures. The past years have left societies worldwide adrift in unsettling political, environmental and economic times. Now, from Pantone’s spring/summer 2020 colour palette to Lego’s challenge to “rebuild the world”, brands are offering a measured and thoughtful outlook on the future, the JWT report set out. It’s been called the ‘Age of Anxiety’, but hopeful creative initiatives and thoughtful brand campaigns are being designed to create hope and offset negativity, according to the report. Pantone’s Classic Blue colour of the year is designed to provoke optimism. Other trends in this category include the rise of female athletes as global influencers; the trend of new neighbourhoods being built around the “core pillars of digital infrastructure, regenerative resources and social wellbeing” – where communities will be responsible for its own water harvesting, clean energy generation and local food production; artificial intelligence artists are leading another creative renaissance; time is being redefined in our on-demand culture, as consumers stream content, start to work differently and take time out for ‘quality time’ for themselves, which also includes digital detoxing. Of course, Generation Z are redefining much of the cultural shifts for this year and this decade. This is an important quote from the report: “With generation Z and millennial consumers eschewing outdated and sexist biases in everything from dress codes to dialogue, restrictive superhero archetypes are being re-examined. The next generation of cultural heroes reflects a broader perspective on what it means to be human, rejecting the unfounded notion that the ideal human is informed by gender identity or sexual orientation.”

2. Retail: Ethical edits. As ethics are becoming a key determinant in purchase decisions, brands are curating products by value to help consumers shop purposefully. Key retail trends include, consumers purchasing for values more than ever; “anti-excess consumerism”, in which consumers are dialing back on purchasing things if they can rent them, share them, swop them, or repurpose them from Vintage or secondhand stores. The challenge for brands in the future is how do you sell to a consumer that no longer wants to own stuff. This anti-excess movement is now affecting the beauty and the fashion industry which are being told by influential beauty bloggers to stop generating so many new products and creating so many new lines. Some top retailers have even introduced luxury secondhand market pop up space. “The archetypal insatiable consumer is becoming an outdated relic of the 20th century as consumers turn a more discerning eye on purchasing. “Millennials and gen Z are disrupting the market and placing greater importance on the social and environmental impact of their purchases than previous generations,” notes Vestiare, the luxury fashion resale platform. Rising generations are buying with less frequency and more mindfulness, creating a better model for consumerism, so brands should be cautious of pushing products mindlessly—they risk appearing blindly greedy and out of touch.” Experience culture is also transforming retail environments and is a major influencer in getting the attention of younger consumers. Big department stores the world over are closing because they no longer resonate with modern consumers who are willing to pay for experiences and ethics, reported JWT.

3. Luxury: Cannabis consultants. As cannabis culture becomes increasingly refined, experts are offering connoisseurship services to discerning customers. From high end pet travel and restaurants catering to pets; to health concierges; vegan hotels and cannabis consultants, it’s all about preserving us while preserving the planet.

4. Food & Drink: Anti-Instagram interiors. Restaurants are turning away from the predictable and monotonous design vernacular fetishised by social media, instead creating dark and intimate spaces that prioritise in-person interaction over digital sharing, said JWT. The future of food for 2020 was covered by Retailing Africa earlier this month, The future of food: It’s blue, it’s convenient and locally sourced; and the Future 100 report tracks how food diversity will lead major changes in product development. Ikea’s research lab Space10 in collaboration with creative agency Barkas, predicts that dramatic changes will have to be made in “the way we consume and produce food, as in the next 35 years, our demand for food will increase by 70%”. In fact, consumers are “pivoting to a climate diet” – eating less meat and dairy and seeking out more sustainable options as they become more aware of the environmental impact. This is the key takeout: “Food brands will need to start producing healthy and sustainable foods that not only feed consumers, but also nourish the planet.

5. Brands & Marketing: Unconventional brand actions. This is JWT’s advice for brands:Brands are finding success among an increasingly values-driven consumer base with unexpected moves that go against the capitalist grain to underline their commitment to social and economic causes.” Gamefluencers are on the rise, with brands wanting a slice of the mega-gaming pie, by signing deals with top esports gamers and endorsing products inside games. JWT believes that “gaming is shaping up to become the next frontier for brand activations, as esport launches the newest class of celebrities.” The new super creatives are a class of consumer which uses digital tools for empowerment and creative expression. Generation Z, aged 13-22, are hyper-connected, socially conscious, authentic and brands looking to connect with them have to engage with them at a creative, activist, digital level. “You have to completely remove any sense of binaries or rules – there are no contradictions for gen Z, it’s just all raw material,” reported Molly Logan, cofounder of gen Z run think tank Irregular Labs. In another content trend, branded content in original series is increasing as the battle for viewers heats up between the streaming services. Brilliant streaming series are now the new Hollywood blockbuster movies and brands want in.

6. Beauty: Blue beauty. Beauty brands are looking to the ocean for mindfully sourced marine ingredients that align with consumers’ desire for natural and sustainable products. Science is transforming the beauty industry and making it hyper-personal, the report states: “Scientific skincare is raising the bar for a growing class of educated consumers. Offering scientific levels of expertise and insight into skin, these new brands are answering demand for education and deep insight into skin health.”

7. Tech & Innovation: The privacy era. With brands’ use of data largely perceived as underhanded and unethical, new course-correcting efforts point to a future where consumers own their data and are in full control of their digital identities, warned JWT. In this Age of Anxiety tech brands are launching products to “soothe, reassure and offer security”, such as a keyring water safety device and air purifiers that detect pollutants. Consumers are moving into tighter, niche groups on social media to limit who they share with and brands have the opportunity to connect on a more intimate level – and are indeed taking up the challenge by investing in tech that responds to human emotions to try relieve stress and anxiety. Haptic technology, “technology that reproduces the sensation of touch and motion”, will also bring multisensory experiences to online shopping, which will be a gamechanger for online retail.

8. Travel & Hospitality: Biocontributive travel. A wave of new initiatives in the travel industry are actively shifting to carbon-positive practices, indicating that the future of travel, tourism and hospitality will be rooted in conscious environmental contribution, according to the report.

9. Health: Psychedelic health. Psychedelic drugs are coming to the fore as the next generation of therapeutics, fueling a swathe of new wellbeing experiences. From music to psychedelics; to urban lounge retreats; digital spas and ‘journey’ travel experiences, it is all about self-care going into 2020.

10. Finance: Carbon credit. New systems are being put in place to drive actionable, environmentally responsible behaviour by yoking credit to carbon footprints. Financial brands are embracing lifestyle branding to appeal to a younger demographic. With financial insecurity in this Age of Anxiety and disruption, financial therapy services have arisen to deal with the PTSD-type symptoms displayed by some millennials over their finances. Apps will play a huge role in this sector in the near future – from teaching Gen Z about finance, to assisting increasing single households with managing household tasks and needs.

A final message for brands from the Future 100 report, from the Gucci CEO, Maro Bizzarri: “We are entering a new decade of corporate accountability. As businesses, we all have a responsibility to meet the reality of our global climate and biodiversity crises head on.”

For all 100 trends, including 10 from each of the above sectors, download the full report from JWT.


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.

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