FIBO: How do food trends start, and how quickly do they change?
Klaus Kofler: Trends are almost always the result of underlying megatrends. Megatrends represent fundamental shifts in values and the creation of new ways of life in our society. These developments impact different milieus and groups within our society in a variety of ways. For example, even though organic products in discounters and wholefood shops serve the same market, that does not mean that they serve the same customers. Food trends generally have a half-life of two to three years, after which they give way to new trends.
What are the biggest food trends for 2022?
Kofler: There are two developments that we must face: On the one hand, values like sustainability are growing ever more important even as they are endangered by a world governed by hubris. On the other hand, consumption as we currently know it is set to change in fundamental ways. Today, consumption continues to be shaped to a large degree by the manner in which products are manufactured. In future, greater emphasis will be given to utility – the focus will increasingly be on the reason why we purchase something.
What are the trends in sport and fitness in particular?
Kofler: Health, sustainability, individuality, an ageing society and digitalisation are megatrends whose role continues to grow. Today, just over 50 percent of the German population is overweight – and their numbers are still going up. In addition, people feel a dozen years younger than their biological age. In other words: the way that we grow old today is much different than it used to be. And this means that a trend towards more physical activity and better health is unavoidable. There are already numerous opportunities available for doing sport digitally. At the end of the day, the success or failure of these efforts comes down to just how far I am willing to go to improve myself and how great my desire is to live more healthily.
Has our understanding of food as a key component of our health changed in recent years?
Kofler: It most certainly has. We no longer have a proper relationship with food, and the situation continues to deteriorate. One place that this can be seen is in the large number of agricultural operations that are shutting down because they are no longer able to stay in business. It is a concerning development that has a significant impact on our food supply. Even as we continue to demand more, we grow less aware of our own obligations. The result has been an increasingly selfish and egoistic mindset. In contrast, sustainable consumption has the potential to spur fascinating new developments.
How is the climate-change debate and news coverage impacting food trends and buying behaviour?
Kofler: These things are having a massive impact, because the more information that is out there, the greater the awareness of the population at large. This in turn leads to people being more conscientious when purchasing food. It can already be seen in actual practice, for example in the increasing number of organic food products that are now available.
And how is digitalisation affecting the situation?
Kofler: We cannot escape the digital world. Without a digital connection – even if it is no more than a website or social media channels – it is not possible to do anything at all. This also includes rural regions, for example, where cheese and other dairy products are purchased from vending machines and paid for with debit cards or Apple Pay. It is becoming clear that there are bigger and stronger digital markets for products with little added value or emotion – items for which there is a great deal of competition, for example, and that are primarily distinguished by their price. By the same token, it is possible to generate powerful emotions in the analogue world that can be used to position products and set them apart from the crowd.
What developments do you expect to see with regard to vegan food products, such as meat substitutes?
Kofler: People who are more conscious of what they eat are pursuing new ways of living. These developments will be having a much bigger impact in future. But even if we take climate change, animal welfare and sustainability seriously, this will be a logical consequence, one that we cannot stop. It is clear that knowledge plays a major role here. It goes beyond honourable and ethical intentions. We have to call the entire process into question. For example, most organic pea protein – a common ingredient in vegan burgers – is harvested in Canada, processed in China and sold in Austria as a sustainable product. On closer inspection it all seems a bit crazy, and the resulting products appear to be anything other than sustainable.