Do you know your micro-trends from your anti-trends, your mega-trends from your phenomena? You’ll need to if you’re serious about understanding the forces that will shape the future of the organic market.
So says Birthe Linddal. And she should know. The Danish futurologist is one of the most widely quoted experts in the fields of ‘food futures’.
“There are going to be some very important issues and trends for the organic community to consider in the next 10 years,” Linddal told a packed conference at last week’s Biofach event in her talk ‘A better food world – 8 trends that could shape the future of organic’.
“The most important trend for futurologists is the mega-trend, because it changes the whole dynamic. Globalisation is mega-trend. But we also need to be aware of the anti-trends. Much less secure, much less stable, these are where thew new ideas are coming from.” Sustainability is one of the biggest mega-trends, says Linddal, “but once it too was an anti-trend. Anti-trends act as a critique of the mega-trends: so, as an example, localism acts as a critique of globalisation.”
So what are the trends that Linddal thinks will shape the future of the organic sector over the next 10 years.
Organic 3.0 (or should that be 4.0?)
Everyone is talking abut ‘Organic 3.0’ (the name given to the next phase of the organic movement’s development). But Linddal wonders if we should already be anticipating Organic 4.0. Certainly we should be asking some searching questions. What is the goal for the organic movement towards 2028? What should be the new standards for organic? What stories should we be telling? And how do we make organic relevant for the next generation?
‘Easy for working mums’ (the birth of industrial food), ‘Calorie cutting’ (low-calorie/lite foods), ‘As in the good old days’ (food nostalgia), ‘Industrial food is not good’ (the take-off of natural food/organics) ‘Globalisation doesn’t make sense’ (local food) and ‘Save the world’ (reduce CO2 emissions/veggie and vegan).
‘Small is good’ (farm shops, small scale production), ‘The farmer is the hero’ (we want producers who care), ‘Denouncing big brands’ (money for people, not systems), ‘Zero waste’ (think circular), ‘Transparency’ (nothing to hide, ‘Ethics and honesty’ (for a better world).
New green diet
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based. The Newer Green Diet is gaining momentum as compelling arguments for its health and ecological benefits are developed and cross over into the mainstream.
Food and nutrition are increasingly being tailored to personal tastes and needs. We’re not just talking about ‘meal plans’ being created to order. We’re talking about running DNA tests to create nutritional ‘fixes’. ‘Smart food’ will just be a few taps away on our smartphones.
Come together, eat together … get connected’, ‘Eat together, eat better’ , ‘Danmark spiser sammen’ (Denmark is eating together). Social eating is a big new food phenomenon and there are a growing number of ways people are getting together to form food communities – from food events and fairs to pop-up restaurants an cafés. Forward-thinking retailers are also joining in. Linddal name-checks Netherlands-based grocery chain Ekoplaza as an example of a ‘socialising supermarket’. The idea has taken off in the US too where Whole Foods Market and ‘Italian marketplace’ Eataly each hold social eating events and food celebrations.
Some classic brands and products are getting a makeover to keep them relevant for the new generation for foodies. It could be a healthy reformulation or an appealing new format. Traditional brands that don’t ‘upgrade’ their products risk being rejected by younger shoppers, who actively seek out “cool micro-brands”.
Now here’s a surprise. Which European Union nation generates the largest amount of municipal waste. It turns out that it’s Denmark (at 777kg, compared to Romania’s 261kg and a European average of 480kg) – the country where organic has the highest share of the food and drink industry. Like other Scandinavian countries, Denmark is an efficient recycler. But is recycling now old thinking? Should we be focusing much more on waste reducing? Linddal predicts that the drive towards zero waste will lead to a golden age of sustainable packaging innovation.
‘Owning’ the route to the customer could turn out to be the defining feature of the successful food retailer or brand in the future, says Linddal. Tech-based giants like Amazon are already experts in cutting almost everyone else out of the equation, and are rolling out increasingly high-tech ways of delivering product to consumers – whether by drone delivery or shop-and-walk supermarkets. Organic brands and retailers are creating their own ‘disruptive logistics’ through specialist delivery services and meal kit options. By staying at front of the tech curve, these smaller operators can continue to thrive in the digitised world.