Small bites and online oxygen: hot consumer trends for 2008

Small bites and online oxygen: hot consumer trends for 2008

As 2007 draws to a close, Mint brings you exclusive insights from the global 2008 Trend Report from BV, the Amsterdam-based consulting company that relies on a network of about 8,000 trend spotters in some 70 countries to identify promising consumer trends and insights.

The network is based on volunteers who alert the company on trends they have spotted, be it a new male grooming lounge in Dubai to an affordable book publishing service for new writers in Canada. Such ideas are then simply emailed to the firm by the spotters, who register themselves with the company and collect points for every accepted trend. Points then add up to gifts. Mint readers, too, can register by visiting the site,

Here is Part II of edited excerpts from the 2008 Trend Report to give Indian companies and marketers lots of examples from around the world and, perhaps, new ways to pitch their products and services to Indian consumers. Part I, which ran on Thursday, is available on our website.


Snack culture represents the transient sphere on steroids, catering to consumers’ insatiable craving for instant gratification. Snack culture thus embodies the phenomenon of products, services and experiences becoming more temporary and transient; products that are being deconstructed in easier to digest, easier to afford bits, making it possible to collect even more experiences, as often as possible, in an even shorter time frame. The signs are everywhere, from ubiquitous commerce to fragmented media to fast fashion to temporary ownership to Netflix-style all-you-can-eat models. Snack culture, like premiumization (in Part I), is not a new new trend, but definitely one that will continue to thrive next year. To get you going, here’s a list of fairly random snack culture spottings that is sure to grow longer in 2008.

Food & Beverage In just three years, sales of 100-calorie packs of crackers, chips, cookies and candy have passed the $200 million-a-year mark, that’s about Rs788 crore a year, and sales grew nearly 30% in 2006. According to analysts, the market for these pint-size packages could easily double because of their simple appeal: they help consumers eat less without having to count calories themselves. Some snack makers think even 100 calories might be too much for some diet-conscious consumers. Hershey, for example, now sells 60-calorie chocolate bars. And Jell-O sells 60-calorie pudding packs.

In Europe, McDonald Corp.’s is replacing bolted-down, yellow-and-white plastic furniture with lime?green designer chairs and dark leather upholstery. It’s the restaurant chain’s biggest overhaul in more than 20 years and, with its franchisees, it plans to spend at least $890 million, remodelling 1,280 European restaurants by this year-end.

Laundry careProcter and Gamble Co.’s Swash offers students dryer sheets, dewrinkling spray, stain-removing pens, odour-removing sprays and lint rollers that can help give their clothes the look and smell of having been washed without the trouble or expense of actual washing.

Cosmetics Take a high-margin product like cosmetics, and cut prices by at least half. Now add online accessibility with customization, community and values. Throw in a pinch of demystifying expert advice, and you’ve got ELF, short for “eyes, lips, face". Launched by JA Cosmetics Corp. roughly three years ago, ELF appears to be turning the cosmetics industry on its ear. All cosmetics cost just $1, and customers can create personalized profiles that generate product recommendations and customized looks. ELF currently ships only to the US and Canadian addresses, but versions of the site have recently launched for both the UK and Australia. The firm’s products are also available?in US stores, including Ta-rget and a variety of drugstores and convenience chains.

Automotive Just like bicycles, a pretty staid sector suddenly brimming with innovation, the small car sector seems ready for a truly global boom. Eco-concerns, design savvy and an urban willingness to regard cars as a utility instead of the ultimate status symbol will lead to a neverending stream of small-car innovations. Keep an eye on the firm that started most of this: Smart. Since its introduction in October 1998, nearly 800,000 people in 36 countries have purchased a Smart Fortwo. The new Smart Fortwo was released in Europe in April and will become available in the US, for the first time, in early 2008. So far, at least 30,000 reservations have been received.

Fast Fashion: If you need to explain snack culture to colleagues who may not totally get it yet, discussing the success of the Zaras and H&Ms of this world will probably do the trick. Whether it’s fast fashion’s fast moving product cycles, low prices, or Snack-style, wear-only-a-few-times. In fact, shopping for clothes increasingly resembles shopping for groceries.

The numbers are impressive: H&M’s sales in 2006 were €6.8 billion (Rs38,524 crore). H&M has 1,400 stores in 28 countries. Zara is part of Spanish Inditex, which also includes fashion chain Bershka. Zara has a turnover of €5.35 billion in 2006 and 990 stores in 62 countries, with plans for another 130-140 stores.

MediaWallstrip offers stock advice in a format that’s second nature to viewers who watch YouTube instead of CNBC. Wallstrip’s daily videos are taped in New York, hosted by actress Lindsay Campbell, and feature one public firm in every 3-minute online show. Wallstrip was founded in October 2006, aiming to be both sassy and serious while teaching a new generation of investors to pick their own stocks. The show was created by Howard Lindzon, who runs an investment firm and hedge fund in Arizona and a venture capital fund in Toronto. Following Lindzon’s personal investment philosophy, the focus is on stocks at all-time highs, like Apple, Google and Toyota, analyzing why they’re strong and whether they’ll continue to increase in value.

Wallstrip perfectly fits what Wired magazine touted as “snack-o-tainment"?earlier this year, which inspired us to come up with snack culture. People are becoming accusto-med?to consuming large amou-nts of bite-size content rather than the longer-form stuff of traditional media. Online video clips, the iPod Nano, pay-per-view TV shows on iTunes, short games played on hand-held devices, the list goes on.

Surprise Infusing snack culture with a dose of surprise, Singapore beverage firm Out of the Box caters to consumers who respond to “What would you like to drink?" with a non-committal?“anything"?or?“whatever". The firm has launched two complementary brands: Anything and Whatever.

Anything is fizzy and comes in six flavours (Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer), while Whatever is non-carbonated (Ice Lemon Tea, Peach Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape Tea, Apple Tea, Chrysanthemum Tea). The surprise part? Consumers don’t know which flavour they’re getting until they take a sip. Cans are simply labelled Anything and Whatever, and the list of ingredients is limited to generic wording. Judging from the buzz on Singapore forums, teens immediately got the concept and are loving it. Surprise fits snack culture well, as it satisfies the desire for the thrill, for discovery. Worth bringing a surprise to market in 2008, even if it’s just a one-off, and even if only for creating a buzz.

People Snack culture applies to more than consumption of goods and services. Consider Adult FriendFinder, the casual encounters site now claiming more than 19 million active members. Real world sex, too, has now become something that can be instantly gratified, with the help from millions of other willing and able participants. The “rate before you date" feature adds a level of transparency, too.

Simply Big:Not everything will come in bite-size format. In addition to the ever-smaller, we’re seeing the ever-bigger. In fact, biggest of the biggest is going to grab quite a few headlines in 2008. Singapore Airlines debuted the first of its new A380 aeroplanes last month. Singapore Airlines has configured the?aircraft?in?a 471-seat layout, even though it has the potential to hold 853 people in full economy class configuration.


Five years ago, we introduced online oxygen as the engine behind all this excitement: control-craving consumers needing online access as much as they need oxygen.

While Web 2.0 has already single-handledly created young brands that are now bigger and more valuable (at least on paper) than many an old economy stalwart, Web 3.0 and 4.0 and 5.0 guarantee enough motion for this trend to continue uninterrupted for years to come.

Fast forward to 2008, when we would need a thousand pages/screens to highlight every noteworthy online sub-trend and big idea to watch. So, instead, we’ll look at a few developments that will spread and encourage online oxygen even further in the next few years to come.

If there’s one device that’s going to introduce another few hundred million people to the online world, it’s the phone. We know this is not a new insight, and nor will it happen overnight in 2008, but if you’re inclined to look beyond 2008, consider this:

Right now, there are 2.7 billion mobile phones in use. The number of worldwide mobile phone users is expected to grow to approximately 3.3 billion in 2011. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to account for 47.9% of global subscribers by 2011. Globally, nearly one in three mobile subscribers will use a mobile broadband connection by 2012. This will represent more than one billion users. So, 2008 will also see a number of initiatives to bring back online oxygen to the last vestiges of offline-ness, the pockets of the real world that have managed to keep even?regular?mobile?broadband connections at bay—planes, trains, and automobiles.

Lufthansa and American Airlines are among the first airlines to bring back in-flight Internet somewhere in 2008. Meanwhile, Australian carrier Qantas will offer Wi-Fi and electrical outlets on its new A380 and renovated 747-400s in the second half of 2008.

European high speed train operator Thalys will provide wireless broadband Internet access to passengers travelling between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne by 2008.

Autonet Mobile is a wireless Internet service designed to maintain seamless connectivity while driving. The service turns a car into a Wi-Fi hot spot, allowing multiple people to connect their own Wi-Fi-enabled computers to the Internet. Autonet runs over both 3G and 2.5G cellular data networks. Users simply the in-car router into their cigarette car lighter, connect their Wi-Fi device(s) and surf the Net.

Read Part III in Saturday’s Mint.