In our optimism we tend to focus on upward trends, conveniently ignoring the downward ones. Let alone the ones that have faded into oblivion. And as we know, sooner or later most trends are destined to be countered by anti-trends. This I believe tells us something about the sustainability of trends in general.
In my opinion trends are about direction, more than anything else. One can argue that strategy is also about direction. After all, what is strategy more than “where am I going, why, how and when?” Particularly for brand and product-strategy this is relevant; because trends may be conflicting with strategy. Ignoring this may work out well in the short term, but is it clever in the long run? Unless of course it is your brand-strategy to constantly and consistently adapt to the whim of the day. Or, one may not have a brand-strategy at all; for pragmatic reasons.
“Borrowing” trends from the human food industry becomes increasingly popular in ours. We should however not forget that the human food industry has 1. a much wider and diverse target-group to address and serve and 2. a much wider variety of production-processes and (distribution-)systems at its disposal. Probably for that reason we as an industry t(r)end to focus on the ingredient-side of human food trends. We jump on the bandwagon created somewhere else and for different reasons. We copy the music without necessarily understanding the score. Therefore, why don’t we start to set our own trends as an industry? After all, what is trend-setting more than “putting inspiration into action”? Of course we are limited in doing so. Our processes are conceptually old-fashioned and therefore handicap our product-development spread of options. Maybe the same can be said about regulations and “rules” that our industry has to deal with.
There is an end to a trend. They mostly start quickly and stop slowly. Let’s not confuse a trend with a fashion, let alone a hype. Evidently, trends are set/started by a few (if that) and followed by many. If there are no followers, there are no trends. In other words, the direction becomes a bit common-place. There is no difference if we all do the same! And yet some of us believe that following the newest trends offers a competitive advantage. Sadly enough, it doesn’t! Certainly not if you take the somewhat longer term view into account. If – by way of example – you see novel grains as a new trend, how long does it take for the newness to fade away; if everybody starts to incorporate novel grains in her or his formulations?
In view of the above it is fair to conclude that trends are not sustainable, they only offer short-term gain, they are “given to us by others” and above all, they have much more a tactical value than a strategic one. Is this what we need to keep our industry on a healthy course?