Trend spotting is a round-the-clock endeavor in today’s hyper-connected world. As noted by Hartman Group in its recent report, Google and social media has empowered anyone to declare the latest trend. What used to be the territory of a few researchers and industry experts, is now an open playground. The report provides good insight into identifying characteristics of trends with staying power. While this is important for product development and long-term strategic planning, there are the short-lived trends that marketers monitor to jump on the bandwagon before it passes. Strong monitoring tools, collaborative environments, and agile execution all contribute to a better likelihood of leveraging these opportunities.

How many “hot trends” have been relegated to the dustbin of history? Trends can be driven by many fads including diets, cultural shifts, updates to familiar favorites, and pop culture. Social media has also had an impact in some of the more outrageous trends that may only live in people’s minds as a hashtag #mermaidfoods #willitwaffle. By understanding sources for these “shooting stars” brands can be relevant to the zeitgeist.

Diet Trends: We have moved from low-fat, low-sodium focused diets to more lifestyle followings like Mediterranean, Paleo, and Gluten Free (for the nonceliac followers). With some of the latest diets being a bit more nuanced and focused on balance rather than exclusion, there are a number of approaches to fit your product into trends. For instance, by focusing more on occasions consumers can see the more obvious or utilitarian need for them. It could be a post workout chocolate milk or a BFY afterschool snack for the kids.

Not Your Grandpa’s Bar: I’m going out on a limb to say that cars preceded the drive thru (at least I don’t recall any on the Oregon Trail). Today, many on-the-go eaters have simplified to protein energy bars. Their ultra-convenience is a huge factor, but they also provide more nutrients and satiety than that original hunger satisfier, Snickers.  Product developers and marketers need to look at not only food trends, but overall changes in the way we live that can guide formulation and communications strategies.

It Costs What?!: I saw people flipping out over a $12 taco the other day. While startling at face value, when you read about the ingredients (pork belly) and preparation (slow-cooked, achiote-rubbed) involved, it didn’t sound so out of whack. We have seen this in other areas with $30 hamburgers with foie gras, or $10 Kobe beef hot dogs. There are more over-the-top examples like the $1,000 sundae at Serendipity, but the idea of elevated street or comfort food will continue. So go ahead and add that lobster mac and cheese to your menu. People will order it.

The Dude Must Abide: Movies can certainly have an impact on consumer preferences. Whether it was the Big Lebowski’s impact on Kahlua sales or a spike in Pinot Noir sales following Sideways, nimble marketers can take advantage of these moments in popular culture. This is also when it helps to encourage your staff to speak up and share what they are seeing.

The In-Crowd: Social media plays a huge role in quickly elevating trends. Remember when your Instagram feed was crammed with avocado toast? Then people started playing around with the idea, creating sweet potato toast. I even came up with eggplant toast (it didn’t go viral). As indicated by this YPulse infographic, colorful foods are popular with millennials, from unicorn anything to charcoal foods, the expression we eat with our eyes is not lost on the younger generation.

Spotting these trends and connecting with them takes an environment of collaboration and calculated risk taking. The rewards can be tremendous when you are relevant to the current conversation. Act fast, they will move on quickly and so should you.

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