C&A f&b trends-1592552260428
No F&B business owner can remain immune to change brought on by COVID-19. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Many businesses actively follow the latest trends in the food and berverage industry... but only a few are creating trends on their own. It’s not just about thinking what’s going to be a hit based on what people have done before, it’s about having the creativity to come up with a new concept.

For those who can create a trend, it establishes a level of marketing leverage unlike any other. Here’s why creating trends as an F&B business is much better than predicting them:

* When you predict trends, you aren’t doing much more than trying to find out the next big idea. But a good idea will stay just that – an idea – and won’t bring much benefit to the business or consumer until it’s actually executed.

* Predictions can go wrong and putting in a lot of time, effort and budget into something that could ultimately lead to nothing is just a waste of resources. Most predictive analytics are based on regressing past data; therefore, simply relying on historical insights to gauge the effectiveness of a trend can be misleading.

* Consumers are focused on actions, not promises. So F&B businesses must focus more on creating trends and showing how the efforts make an impact instead of just announcing their plans for a better world. Businesses must look for more effective ways of executing launch plans rather than following tested methods such as focus group research and filling surveys that may not be accurate.

While focus group research is based on prototype feedback that is not scientifically backed, filing surveys bring in a lot of bias. While no single route guarantees success, a combination certainly works better.

Instead of focusing on trend predictions, F&B businesses should create their own. The public preferences are the best starting point for this. Keeping “ears to the ground” during test marketing and research, and quick adaptation to design or innovative packaging and communication can create a better RoI for trendsetters.

But however good a trend, product or service may be, it may take a while to receive positive traction in the market. Or it may require alteration in terms of fixing the right value (price vis-à-vis benefit) and modulating the same.

Basic ingredients remain the same

Success is based on three factors:

1. How much of the need/pain point of the consumer the trendsetting product addresses?

2. How unique is the trend? A classic example is Careem, which was premised on a similar concept of ride sharing like Uber. However, it was unique in that it treated its drivers as “captains” as there was a respect “deficit”. It eventually launched the ride sharing/delivery services on motorbikes and rickshaws in Pakistan and Egypt.

3. What is the multiplier for the trend? If the network effect is high, then the chance of being relevant for a long time are higher.

While anything can become a trend, F&B businesses must create a more environmentally-friendly approach to how they do things. In addition, they must also know which sustainable practices coincide with current and future consumer preferences.

Here are some of the ways F&B businesses can focus on to create sustainability trends.

* Food is being wasted along the whole supply chain, with many items never being used due to spoilage and being out of date. Plate waste and kitchen errors are also contributing factors, which can be greatly reduced by changing practices. Seeking trends that combat this problem could not only be popular with consumers, but make for actionable changes in the industry.

* A lot of food waste doesn’t actually come from the food itself but the packaging. Investing in smarter solutions – biodegradable packaging – will lower the impact. Avoid unnecessary packaging wherever possible. New materials, in particular, could be a trending opportunity for F&B.

* Vegan and plant-based diets have a strong correlation with sustainability. With many consumers willing to change their diets based on sustainability and animal welfare, you can easily create new trends surrounding ethically sourced food.

* Where possible, ingredients and products should support the local economy. This is a growing trend, particularly in hospitality.

* Consumers will not necessarily pay more for sustainably grown products. But if they had to choose between sustainable and regular at the same price, they would choose the more sustainable.

Given the pandemic, consumption patterns will be overhauled. The common mantra is preventive healthcare than treatment. Anything that entails a healthy lifestyle will be encouraged and the gaps in health education on a societal level have been amplified by the current pandemic.

Ultimately, any business can join the guessing game on what the next big trend in the F&B industry will be. But only those who look at pain points, uniqueness, and multipliers will reap rewards.

- Priyanka Mittal is with KRBL, which owns the ‘India Gate’ brand.