2016 Food Trends Series: #1 Self, Society and Planet

Add good.

As we introduced last week, the emergence of the Millennial Mindset® is starting to shape how all generations look at products being consumed today.  With this in mind, our team read through piles of trends reports including Huffington Post, Food Navigator, Nation’s Restaurant News, Kantar, Fuse Marketing, Convenience Store Decisions, Mintel and many more to pull forward the trends worth paying attention to. It all leads to one extremely important insight: Brands and manufacturers must strive to have “sympathy,” which is deeper than just having “empathy.”

This week, we examine Self, Society and Planet. This is the new lens consumers are looking through when making food purchases. Every brand must understand what it is doing to improve:

Selfhow is the food that I am buying enhancing quality of life for my family or me?

We have continued to see the shift from food absent of bad to the addition of positives.  Millennials are embracing a new wave of modern eating. From the clean eating trend to organic and less processed foods, to shorter ingredient decks, to greater transparency from food brands about additives and ingredients – it all matters.  Trending:  GMO-free, antibiotic free, additive free, locally sourced.

Societywhat good is the company contributing to the broader community its serves?  

This includes cause programs, employee wages, manufacturing standards, employee policies and community support.  Consumers believe companies have a responsibility to add good to the communities and employees they serve.

Planetwhat good is the company adding to the world in which we live? 

The issues are going beyond what’s in the product to more eco-social issues such as water, energy, waste and animal handling.

Today, brands must look at what they are doing in all three of these areas table stakes for doing business in a modern brand world.  Retail grocery stores are even starting to align with “values” and not just “value.” They are recognizing that a good deal is not always the most important thing when it comes to Millennial Mindset® consumers but rather, how the companies values align with the individual shoppers.

Creating a modern brand that is rooted in values over value is dependent on four key elements: Policies (what you say), Practices (what you do), Performance (the impact you have had) and Verification (outside authority monitoring and validating).  The Center for Food Integrity reports that manufactures carry the biggest responsibility for deliver these three areas followed by farmers. Grocery stores and restaurants actually carry significantly less responsibility.

Once the foundation is built, packaging becomes the key message carrier in emphasizing the good – explaining the benefits; the absence of negatives – taking out the perceived bad and proving it with pictures – stamps of approval saves consumers time to digest information.


Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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