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Jan 2, 2018 / Richard Hall

Two most important words of decade

I spend much of my time trying to discern new trends and turning points in consumer behaviour. Being first to see the future means a better chance for clients to invest wisely and innovate effectively.

One of the ways I do this is to seek a single word to sum up a theme or direction of change. For years, I have made presentations about 20 trends for 20 years.

My ultimate objective has been to find just one word. Five years ago, that word was ‘easy’.

We live in an increasingly complex world. We know it’s hard to live up to expectation, to measure up to the best, to do what’s right, to eat sensibly and take exercise. We’d prefer governments, schools and food companies to make choices and actions more easy.

By and large, lifestyles have become more easy through improved technology and distribution. But we haven’t appreciated it as much as if we had to make more effort. We’ve taken it for granted. We’ve lost a sense of personal responsibility. We are connected to the internet but not to governance.

I have now come up with a second word that both complements and contradicts ‘easy’. It’s ‘control’.

It’s the cause of most division in society, across all countries. Everyone wants more, but feels they have less. Especially about nationhood and immigration.

In my opinion, control is a wishful thinking illusion. We’ve rarely had it, but somehow feel we had more in the past. The truth is we’re more dependent on each other than ever before. We’re better off talking than judging.

This all affects the food industry too. Consumers want to know more about where it comes from. Provenance and authenticity are becoming more important watchwords. Food now has to reflect consumer values as well as taste good.

Price is still important, but one of the biggest trends has been price polarisation, where the same consumer chooses cheap for everyday and premium for indulgence, even at the same time – such as a takeaway with a good wine.

Easy control is the great goal and conundrum of the decade.

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