12 July 2019, 13:53 PM
  • Food Futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye highlights the powers at play in today's industry
“‘Business as usual’ is not going to work”

Food doesn’t exist in a vacuum; nothing does. Unless you’re living in a hermetically-sealed room we are all affected by what’s going on around us. The truth is that we think we are making free choices but none of us are – we’re all affected by the media, our peers and the culture around us including music, film and fashion. These influences, together with things like aspiration, affordability and availability, play into our choices and lead them to constantly fluctuate.

Right now, consumer awareness is in a heightened state. Things that previously might have seemed worthy, such as animal welfare or excess plastic usage, are now becoming policy and we have seen niche sectors – veganism and vegetarianism, for example – become mainstream. It’s not about educating shoppers any more; I think those days are passed. People don’t want to be preached to, they want to be offered another option which is sexy, delicious and looks great and just so happens to tick ethical or environmental boxes.

Small-scale retailers and producers are in a good position. Their size allows them to be responsive to the market, to give the customer what they (think they) want. It’s important to not over-complicate what you do; simple is often best so do one thing and do it really well. Don’t try to sell a dream or copy the big guys – consumer trust is at an all-time low, and the best thing businesses can do is to be transparent. Meanwhile, there are lots of interesting things happening with the big brands; they’re realising that business as usual is no longer going to work, so authenticity and commitment to their original vision is standing smaller businesses in good stead.

One of the ways we define a fad is if there’s a lot of bluster and excitement around it and if it’s short-lived. It will be connected to a momentum, which can last for years, and which you can see developing and evolving. Along the way it will pick up little fads: avocado on toast, for example. Avocado isn’t new and toast isn’t new, but all of a sudden we’re faced with a cool new food everyone’s eating.

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