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“Previously unthinkable advancements such as the 3-D printing of personalized knee replacements are happening now”

A report on my keynote for the 2016 Benefits Pro conference in Fort Lauderdale earlier this week.

Health care: The Future is Now
BenefitsPro, April 2016
BY SHAWN MOYNIHAN

When listening to futurist Jim Carroll speak, one thing becomes apparent quickly: The future belongs to those who are fast.

Onstage Monday delivering the keynote at the Benefits Selling Expo inside Great Hall 3, Carroll delivered a rapid-fire, deeply insightful “fast future” presentation on where the future of health care and benefits is headed. And to hear him tell it, it is bright for those who would embrace the impact of mobile technology and how the Internet of Things (IOT) will reshape the entire process of health care a lot sooner than later.

For starters, Carroll explained, 10 years from now, health care will look nothing like it does today. A fundamental transformation, he explained, is on its way, and in many cases, already happening. Genetic testing and DNA sequencing will forever alter the manner in which illness is forecasted, diagnosed and treated: in advance of the condition arising rather than after the fact, the way medical professionals do now.

Years ago, he said, having a hand-held device that monitors vital signs, takes your blood pressure, and reads your EKG was the stuff of science fiction. Today, it is a reality, courtesy of the Scanadu Scout (a tool now being tested by more than 7,000 people in more than 70 countries), and that tech will only become less expensive as time goes on. It’s not farfetched, Carroll added, to imagine a day when you can walk into Best Buy and purchase an inexpensive device that does all these things and more, including diagnosing future ailments.

With the advent of technologies that monitor health signs via wearable devices and mobile devices connected to the Internet, only those patients requiring critical care will also change the way hospitals operate — which is advantageous, considering the number of baby boomers who will comprise so much of the U.S. population in the coming decades.

What does all this mean? Massive opportunity, for those who would think forward and recognize how the IoT will shape the world of pharmaceuticals and benefits. The World Economic Forum posits that the global economic impact of the five leading chronic diseases — cancer, diabetes, mental illness, heart disease, and respiratory disease — could reach $47 trillion over the next 20 years.

What if technology could allow medical science to get out in front of that, so that those costs could be slashed?

Carroll said such a world is not as far off as it would seem. Such revolutionary developments in health care virtualization will be driven by big goals and big thinking, said Carroll. Onscreen, he showed the frightening statistics on obesity levels in the U.S. over the past few decades over a map of all 50 states, staggering numbers that illustrate one of the great health challenges of the modern age. However, that’s not even the biggest worry looking forward.

“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will be the great challenge of our time,” said Carroll, noting that his mother-in-law had suffered and died from the condition (Jim: it was my father in law...), the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Going forward, however, developments in science will allow for earlier detection and better treatment options.

Luckily, medical knowledge, Carroll said, is doubling every eight years. Previously unthinkable advancements such as the 3-D printing of personalized knee replacements are happening now; the growth of replacement organs is something that will be available to medical professionals within years, not decades. Ingestible technology will be able to show us how we’re responding to medications, by offering diagnostics on how our bodies are reacting to treatment.

The greatest challenge faced by health care CEOs, Carroll said, includes the need to focus on a direct relationship with the customer — which will require wholesale re-engineering of member plans — and rapid deployment of mobile products to meet customer expectations. People will become far more engaged with matters of their own health, as they are empowered with technology that’s connected to their mobile device.

Carroll acknowledged what he called the “organizational sclerosis” that hampers big ideas and innovative thinking, but offered this piece of advice for those whose ideas may alter the health care landscape: “Think big, start small, and scale fast.”

It’s that time of year when all kinds of media are running their ‘looking into the future’ articles. I took a quick call for an interview yesterday with The Sun UK newspaper, and this was the article that ran today.
UKBaby

“A baby born today faces life in a world riddled with debt. But this will be an entrepreneurial generation” says Jim in an interview with the UK Sun.

The Sun sits behind a pay wall, and the article isn’t available online, but I managed to dig out a copy. Click for the Pdf!

100 not out; HOW YOUR BABY WILL REACH ITS CENTURY
by Dulcie Pearce,14 December 2013

Around a third of children born today will reach the ripe old age of 100.

The Office for National Statistics has revealed that 39 per cent of girls born in 2013 will celebrate their centenary — and the boys are not far behind at 30 per cent. So if all goes well, they should be receiving their telegram from our future King George in 2113.

There are now 14,000 people in the UK who are 100 or over, compared with just 600 in 1961.

Deputy Sun Woman Editor Dulcie Pearce – with the help of futurist and trends expert Jim Carroll – looks at what our newborns face in their long lifetime.

HEALTH AND LIFESTYLE

11 – by this age our newborns are likely to have smoked

THE average life expectancy for a boy born today is 80 and 83 for a girl. They are very likely to try a cigarette by the age of 11 and have a one-in-six chance of becoming a smoker.  The most common birth weight is 7lb 8oz for a boy and 7lb 2oz for a girl.

Only 34 per cent of boys and 39 per cent of girls born in 2013 will be a healthy size in adult life.

The most common male cancer will be prostate, which now has a one-in-eight chance of developing. One in eight girls born today will be at risk of breast cancer.

Boys will have a one-in-four chance of breaking a bone from osteoporosis when they reach 50, and a girl will have a one-in-two chance. By the time they are between 40 and 70, more than half of the boys will have erectile dysfunction.

Jim says: “In the future, we will be able to work with DNA-based medicine, which does exist today. It will have a huge impact on the healthcare of the next generation.  They will be able to look at the DNA of a baby born today and deal with the medical condition they have even before it is even making them ill.”

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

31 – when they are likely to have their first child

ON average, the babies of 2013 will have their first child at 31. That is two years later than their parents and five years later than their grandparents. They are most likely to get married at 33 – and the 2046 wedding will set them back an eye-watering £39,000.

Jim says: “Only one in four now live in heterosexual, two-parent families. As we know, the ‘conventional’ family no longer exists.” A baby born today is more likely to live with ” a partner for much longer in a relationship.”

£39,000.- cost of their wedding at age 33

DEBT

52 – age today’s tots will clear their student loans

THIS generation will be paying their student loan until they are 52 and their mortgage until 61.

Jim says: “A baby born today faces life in a world riddled with debt. But this will be an entrepreneurial generation. They are coming into a world where their parents are internet savvy. So they will be seeing job opportunities and work through fresh eyes. They will acclimatise to the debt and – sad as it might be – they will see it as part of life.”

61 – when the mortgage is finally paid off

JOB

70 – when their first pension payment is received

THESE babies will not pick up their first pension payment until the age of 70 – and go on to enjoy 30 years of retirement. Jim says: “They will almost definitely work in a job that we have never heard of or has yet to be created. I predict that 65 per cent of children born today will work in a job that does not even exist yet.”

“It is not far-fetched to say that they could  be flying a plane from inside their house. We are living in an incredibly fast world and it will be an even faster one with the technology becoming even more advanced. ”

They are most likely to be self-employed. “Permanent jobs for companies are quickly becoming a thing of the past and they will soon become extinct. These children born today will either be working for themselves or working on short-term employment contracts.”

65 per cent – will be working in job that does not yet exist

Payback of longer lives

SUN Doctor Carol Cooper says: “Around half of today’s babies could live to 100 and beyond if the trend carries on. “Longer lives may mean more opportunities, but there are more challenges. Obesity and type 2 diabetes rates are skyrocketing.

“Over 65, around one in 20 will have dementia, but numbers may treble. There has been a seachange in cancer treatments and there’ll be many advances. More people live alone … life might not only be long, but lonely too.”

Wow! I’m gonna get a telegram from King George

I keep advising my personal trainer that she needs to get an iPhone. She shrugs, noting that there is a queue in the family for the next mobile upgrade, and her 14 year old daughter might have more of a claim in the line than she does.

Hogwash! There is an absolute revolution going on involving the “consumerization of fitness and wellness” — and this super long blog post will put into perspective why. And maybe this will help to sort out some of her family politics over the ‘next phone.’ The fact is, the very nature of the future fitness opportunity is changing ….

Update: After I wrote this blog post, Adweek ran the article, “Nike+ Officially Turns Your Workout Into a Video Game” – you want to read it.

Here’s the main gist of this post — In May and June, I spoke at a tremendous number of corporate, association and private events; it was a busy couple of months, and hence the lack of regular postings to the blog.

Three of these were events related to the issue of corporate wellness programs.

It was the perfect timing for such a keynote; through the last year and I half, I’ve been following what I believe to be a fairly aggressive personal fitness regime, with the help of my personal trainer, as well as personally exploring the wealth of new fitness and wellness mobile applications that are flooding the market.

The entire premise of my keynote? At this moment in time, we are witnessing the perfect confluence of several major trends:

  • the first signs of the reality of the massive scope of the health care crisis (both disease, lifestyle and funding related) as baby boomers begin to flood the health care system with requirements for extra care
  • a renewed and significant focus on “preventative” health care concepts” ;
  • structural change aimed at wellness programs so that people work harder to avoid or reduce the impact of lifestyle disease;
  • and the rapid emergence of new technologies — many involving the smartphones that have become a ubiquitous part of our lifestyle – that can motivate consumers to do so much more with their personal fitness and wellness.

Why a keynote on wellness? Because companies are recognizing there is a big opportunity to be innovative with managing healthcare costs through a proactive approach that involves wellness. It’s a good example of the deep, transformative thinking that is occurring with many organizations in the healthcare system worldwide . Organizations are moving beyond the endless political debate, and are instead, putting in place practical, innovative programs that can help organizations manage healthcare costs, and employees can actively work at improving their overall health and fitness.

Let’s consider the trends which are all coming together.

1. It’s crisis time!

Throughout the western worldwide, the obesity, diabetes and lifestyle health care crisis is really making itself felt with massive demands being placed on the system. The future is stark ; if something is not done, we will continue to see:

  • a continued rapid increase in lifestyle disease, resulting in even more massive future demands on the system
  • a bigger demographic challenge – more boomers placing demand on the system, with fewer workers to support the massive uptick in spending that results
  • a resultant massive supply / demand imbalance
  • and an expectation gap likely to increase scope of challenge : a trend I wrote about in my “Trending in 2011: 10 Major Trends to Start Thinking About Now.” It’s worth a read — check the first big trend in the list.

Clearly, something needs to be done. Hence, a lot of innovative thinking!

2. A massive shift to preventative medical concepts

Given that the Western world has such a big problem, it’s also fascinating to note that there is a huge amount of innovation occurring in the health care system now – and it has absolutely nothing to do with the raging (and now seemingly pointless) political debate occurring in the US.

What is happening is this: we are in the midst of a long term trend in which “preventative medical care” will come to exceed what we spend on “reactive medical care.” Preventative care takes many forms, from genetic testing (to determine what conditions people are likely to develop in their lifetime) to wellness and other preventative programs. Simply put, let’s fix people before they are sick, rather than treating them after they’ve developed a condition.

We’ve got a heck of a long way to go with this trend: according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, “a mere 3% of spending goes towards prevention of chronic disease among industrialized countries.”

But what is happening is an acceleration of the trends that take us to a world of preventative healthcare. Consider the trend line with genomic medicine:

  • it took $3 billion to sequence the first human genome
  • by 2009, that was down to $100,000
  • it’s now under $10,000
  • and it is estimated by the end of 2012, $1,000

Give it a few years, and you’ll be able to go out and buy a $5 genomic sequencing machine at Radio Shack! That might seem like a joke, and it is. But the significance of a cost curve such as this is that it accelerates a significant shift in spending.

It isn’t occurring with genomic medicine — its happening everywhere throughout the world of healthcare. Last year, when I keynoted one of the largest seniors care conferences in the US, I noted the same type of focus on preventative thinking was becoming routine:

  • “Identifying dementia early can cut the cost of care by nearly 30 percent … routine screening that identified patients with early signs of dementia helped cut average healthcare costs by nearly $2,000 per patient in the first year, often by eliminating money spent on unnecessary tests and treatments. Early diagnosis can cut Alzheimer’s costs, Reuters Health E-Line, July 2010

The health and wellness theme fits into this agenda as well, which have undergone very much a sea-change in the last, in terms of perception, importance and approach:

  • “In businesses across the nation, workplace wellness has morphed from a “nice-to-have” fringe benefit to a “must-have” cost-containment strategy.” 23 April 2012, GlobeNewswire
  • Employers determined to contain medical costs must focus on creating a culture that supports healthy behaviors. If they can do that, they can enhance not only their bottom lines but also transform the lives of their workers. 28 April 2012, Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week
  • “In businesses across the nation, workplace wellness has morphed from a “nice-to-have” fringe benefit to a “must-have” cost-containment strategy.” 23 April 2012, GlobeNewswire
  • “64 percent of employers surveyed indicated that wellness initiatives are among the top three most effective tactics for controlling health care costs” 2012 Annual Plan Design Survey, National Business Group on Health

Studies show that for every $1 spent on a wellness program, medical expenses fall by at least $3.

Part 3: Time for some more aggressive action!

What is interesting is that in corporate organizations throughout the Western world, wellness programs are rapidly shifting : they’re going from a “nice-to-have” type of program, to a “we really need to see some results!” approach. Consider the trends; certainly many more organizations are putting such programs in place:

  • A recent study by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice found about 60 percent of the companies surveyed have wellness programs, an increase of 13 percent from 2010. Companies encourage wellness, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 22 April 2012

But not only are more organizations adopting wellness programs: they are working to put in place structures, methodologies and measurement technologies that can help to ensure that employees are benefitting from such programs:

  • One of the fastest-growing categories of new insurance includes significant penalties for those who don’t participate or backslide on targets – penalties that may include deductible spikes or loss of health-savings accounts. Workers’ wellness can turn a profit Insurers offer incentives for health and penalize workers who can’t meet goals, The Denver Post , 25 December 2011
  • A national survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health found that 80 percent plan to offer financial rewards for health in 2012, up from 54 percent this year. Workers’ wellness can turn a profit Insurers offer incentives for health and penalize workers who can’t meet goals, The Denver Post , 25 December 2011

And this is where tech comes along at the perfect time!

4. In comes technology – and the new consumerization of health care!

Technology is going to provide for more creative disruption in the world of healthcare than we’ve ever seen. Simply put, it changes everything.

  • “Imagine a far more extreme transformation, in which advances in IT, biology and engineering allow us to move much of health care out of hospitals, clinics and doctors offices, and into our everyday lives.” Our high-tech health care future, New York Times, 10 Nov 2011

The Withings Wi-FI Body Scale measures weight, BMI and fat mass, and transmits the info to a password protected site. I’ve got one and love it. They sell them at the Apple Store!

Cast your mind out 5 years or more, and we will see significant change in everything we do in the world of health care:

  • “…. you’ll be sitting in front of a big multitouch screen actually watching what’s going on in your body in a very intuitive, fun kind of animation. When you leave, the doctor will download prescriptions and treatments onto your cellphone – which not only remind you, but encourage you to follow the medicine’s or other lifestyle procedures. [You’ll see] a periodic video message from the doctor to encourage you if you’re doing well or maybe to encourage you if you’re not. It’ll be continuous care rather than the episodic, periodic care that occurs today.” Better living with technology, The Boston Globe, 21 November 2011

Extend that type of thinking, and we are headed to a future in which we literally have a dashboard for the human body…..

And it is starting to happen now — with a flood of new mobile and other healthcare technologies that help consumers to take more of an active role in their level of wellness and fitness. Consider the current trends:

  • 78% of consumers are interested in mobile health wellness fitness solutions
  • medical fitness health care apps are 3rd fast growing category for iPhone and Android phones
  • the Apple App store now has 17,000 health care related apps, 60% of which are aimed at the consumer
  • sports, fitness and wellness apps will grow from 154 million downloads in 2010 to 908 million by 2016
  • the number of wearable wireless “gadgets” will grow from 8 million to 72 million over the same period

I’m using a number of mobile wellness and fitness apps — for example, MapMyWalk, which I use to track the pace and timing of the five mile — or more — walk that I do while at home or travelling. I’ve also got a Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale — which tracks weight, BMI and body-fat mass, transmitting those details to a personally-password protected Web site. Utilize such technology, and all of a sudden you’ve got the opportunity to be more involved in your own well being.

Or, as I commented in New York at the keynote the impact of consumer fitness, wellness and healthcare technologies is that  “...they increase how often individuals think about their health…”

And clearly, it’s a pretty big trend:

  •  “500 million mobile users, or about 30% of an estimated 1.4 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, will be using health/fitness apps by 2015. Healthcare in your hands
International Herald Tribune, March 2011

The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor works with your iPhone. It’s an example of the start of the trend I call “bio-connectivity.”

It isn’t just consumers who are rapidly adopting such technology — so are doctors and other professionals throughout the healthcare system.

  • By the end of the year 90 percent of physicians will have smart phones. Health apps soon will get an incubator, The San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 2011

We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the innovations that will occur here. I’ve been suggesting that one of the biggest trends to sweep the world of healthcare and medicine will be that of ‘bio-connectivity,’ a phrase I coined well over a decade ago. Consider this post which I wrote before keynoting the World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Congress in Washington.

Bio-connectivity provides huge opportunity for innovation in the space of healthcare. The same company – Withings — has brought out the Withings iPhone Blood Pressure Monitor — seen on the right. All of a sudden, someone working to manage their blood pressure doesn’t need to rely on pencils and paper to track their progress — it’s automatically captured through the smartphone which is becoming an integral, everyday part of their life.

Not only that, but they can transmit their blood pressure readings and charts to their doctor or other health care provider via email. This provides for the virtualization of healthcare ; no longer are hospital or doctor visits restricted to actual physical locations known as hospitals or doctors offices — instead, it becomes a part of the global Internet. If you think about what is happening here: there is a change in the centuries old relationship between doctor and patient!

Did you know that researchers have already figured out how to make an ultra-thin heart monitor that goes on like a tattoo? Talk about a trend that is going to drive a lot of change!

Link all of these trends together, and the simple fact is this: we are going to witness more change in the world of healthcare, wellness and fitness in the next five years, than we have seen in the previous one hundred years.

And if you follow that path down the road of wellness and fitness — the very nature of fitness is changing. Ten years out, most folks going to the gym will have a smartphone attached to their hip, and will be working with their trainer on a regimen that includes this type of personal fitness tracking.

Sure, it sounds odd, but ten years ago, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or many other of today’s life changing technologies.

My personal trainer really needs to get an iPhone!

Health, wellness and food are set to become even more linked than ever before in 2012 and beyond.

That’s a significant trend that I’m witnessing right now through the various keynotes and consultations that I do with a large range of food / restaurant / consumer product companies, as well as the keynotes I do for major health care groups worldwide. I get to see what food companies are focused on; I get to see what healthcare groups and governments are worried about…..

Jim Carroll helps global organizations interpret how the trends of today will impact them tomorrow. His food and health care clients include H.J. Heinz, Nestle, the World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Summit, and just recently, as the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 World Pharma Innovation Congress in London, England

In a nutshell, here’s what’s happening:

  • the importance of health and wellbeing on a global national, political and healthcare system perspective is accelerating. We’ve got a big global problem, and nations and governments are racing to deal with it.
  • the result is that there is a very significant effort by food companies to speed up their innovation engine with respect to their health and wellness product line – it’s being done to mitigate potential political risk down the road
  • it’s also being done because it makes increasing business sense — as consumers worldwide begin to adjust their lifestyle, including their food intake, revenues of the health/wellness product line soars. One report suggests, the sale of heath and wellness oriented foods is expected to quadruple through the next five years.
  • to help accomplish that, food and consumer product companies are make an increasing number of BIG BETS involving product development, and through even more vigorous M&A activities, that enhance their health and wellness product lines

Making BIG BETS involves establishing big goals. Consider just two examples of “BIG BET thinking”:

  • “Frito-Lay, the biggest U.S. seller of salty snacks, is embarking on an audacious plan. By the end of the year, it intends to make half its snacks sold in the U.S. with only natural ingredients” You Put What in This Chip? 24 March 2011, The Wall Street Journal
  •  Pepsi intends to grow a $10 billion health and wellness portfolio to $30 billion by 2020

Savvy food companies know that globally, they face increasing national financial, political and healthcare risk. Quite simply, the world is getting fat, people are getting sick, and countries are not going to be able to afford the care for those suffering from the resultant lifestyle disease.

Here’s a clip in which I’m speaking to the annual general meeting of the Professional Golfers Association of America — the PGA! — on the depth of the obesity / lifestyle crisis.

Given this reality, and the economic volatility in Europe, the US, Japan and elsewhere as government revenue declines and spending soars, in 2012 and beyond we are going to see far more aggressive efforts by politicians and governments to reign in health care spending, including that related to lifestyle-disease. Nations simply can’t afford what is set to come in terms of spending.

Much of this activity will come to involve far more aggressive efforts concerning preventative health care programs, including wellness and lifestyle management. We can expect governments and politicians to become far more aggressive with food companies when it comes to their food offerings.

There is a big political risk here on a global scale.

The result? Smart food companies are making BIG BETS right now to grow their health and wellness product lines. It makes great sense from a business sense; it’s critical in order to stay one step ahead of government trends in order to mitigate risk.

So how will food companies grow their health and wellness line of business? By accelerating internal innovation into health and wellness product lines, but also through some pretty aggressive M&A activity

  • A report by Deloitte suggests that this will include increased M&A activity involving dairy, juice, health snacks and functional foods.
  • Gerald Abelson, president of Canadian corporate finance group MNC Multinational Consultants recently observed that “health and wellness is definitely where you want to be in the next three to five years” in a discussion about global M&A activity in the food and consumer product sector in 2012 and beyond.

Big Goals – Big Bets.

That’s the focus for 2012 and beyond for most companies in the food and restaurant sector.

Background:

If you check the Health Trends section of this blog, you’ll find a post in which I write about the ongoing and significant challenges that the world faces with the rapid emergence of lifestyle disease and other challenges. Notes one comment in that post (“Trend – Confronting the Global Health Care Crisis”):

It’s the lifestyle disease that provides the biggest challenge in terms of scope: according to the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, “1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50 per cent of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category.”

 with the resultant impact:

  • “The number of adults with diabetes worldwide has more than doubled since 1980 to 347 million, a far larger number than previously thought and one that suggests costs of treating the disease will also balloon.” Global diabetes epidemic balloons to 350 million, Reuters Health E-Line, June 27, 2011

Lest we think that this is a problem only in the Western world, I also note that:

The challenge with lifestyle disease isn’t restricted to the Western world; the statin (cholesterol) drug market in China, India other “BRIC”countries is set to grow at rates of up to 25% compounded per year. In other words, developing nations are soon to see the same lifestyle diseases which are currently sweeping through North America and Europe.

 

It’s been a whirlwind of activity over the last two months, with about 20 major keynotes under my belt.

One of these was a corporate event for a food company with $7 billion in revenue and 24,000 employees ; my talk was on the key food industry trends of today that should be driving innovation from a marketing, product development and branding perspective.

Jim Carroll on stage at the Readers Digest Food and Entertainment Group Summit, in front of several hundred food and consumer product executives, advertising agencies, grocery and retail organizations and publishers of the world's most popular food magazines, speaking to the trends driving the food industry today, .

This is one of many events I do for food and consumer product clients – my global client list includes high profile keynotes or leadership meetings for the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Division (the publisher of such innovative magazines as Everyday with Rachel Ray), the Produce Marketing Association Annual Fresh Summit, HJ Heinz, Nestle , FMC FoodTechnologies, Burger King, Yum! Brands and many more.

I was the keynote speaker for a meeting of their top 250 marketing executives; my mandate was to focus on how to innovate around the trends that are today impacting the food industry today, with a particular focus on consumer behaviour.

Below are a few of the many trends that I spoke about. I took on an extensive amount of research for this keynote, which is typical of how I approach these events.

In effect, I built my keynote around the theme “….these are the trends that will drive your brands……”, and from that, they could best learn how to change and innovate with their branding and marketing message.

1. Biggest trend: We are witnessing a changing relationship with food

My main observation is that we live in a period of time that sees consumers interacting with food, the purchasing of food, and the consumption of food in new and different ways.

An article, Observer Food Monthly in the Guardian Newspaper, 15 May 2011 caught this sentiment perfectly:

  • “… never before has our culture been so engaged in discussing and experimenting with and agonizing over and fantasizing about and plain enjoying what is on the end of our forks”

Consider what is happening:

  • we have a new form of interaction when purchasing food. Consider the number of iPhone apps by which we can research calorie counts, nutrition facts and other information while in the grocery store.
  • we have new influencers in how we make these in-store food decisions. Think about the Monterrey Aquarium Seafood Watch iPhone app, which will give you background that can help you with your ethical food decisions.
  • a change in how we manage our food intake. iPhone and Web sites apps such as Lose It, which allow us to track our food consumption on a calorie-by-calorie, product by product basis.
  • a change in food packaging: ““…..interactive packaging, intelligent and active packaging, multi-sensory packaging, edible packaging … packaging as mini-billboards…” as noted by the research firm Reportlinker. Paackaging is going from passive to active, and is becoming more than just the vehicle for branding – increasingly, it is defining our relationship with the food.
  • a change in our food relationships. Consider the impact of food traceability based on DNA. “Tonning’s restaurant is among more than 11,000 that Richmond-based food distributor Performance Food Group is supplying with DNA-traceable beef as an added value for customers of its premium Braveheart brand. The company, which has annual revenues of about $11 billion, said it is among the first distributors to use the technology.” Where’s the beef, Iowa Press Citizen, May 2011
  • A more direct involvement with the ethics of food. “Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide.” Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011
  • and very significant transitional trends. Whole grains are the hottest trend in sliced bread, with whole wheat edging out soft white bread in total sales for the first time……… The whole-grain craze has, after all, raised the bar on what consumers are willing to pay for bread that’s perceived as healthy…..” Grains gain ground; Focus on healthy eating helps wheat surpass white in sliced bread sales 1 August 2010, Chicago Tribune

All in all, these are pretty significant, systemic, long term transformative trends that will have a major impact through the next 5-10 years. Smart food companies will recognize that the very nature of our relationship with food is changing and will innovative around that reality. Massive opportunities for innovative thinking exist here!

2. A need to respond to faster consumer preference/taste change

I’ve long been pointing out that consumer preference is changing faster when it comes to food, and that leads to the rapid emergence of new opportunity, or the rapid decline of existing product lines. A few of my observations:

  • behavioural change and food as fashion! Fresh-cut snack food grew from $6.8 billion in to $10.5 billion in one year. Notes one publication: “Snacks are like a fashion category…..People want a change. it’s going to be short-lived–maybe a quarter, maybe six months, then changed out” Private Label Buyer, May 2010.
  • We spend more of our day with our food – it’s not just breakfast, lunch and dinner anymore. Canadian consumers are snacking more frequently. Snacks were 24% of all “meals” consumed by 2010. Fruit leads in the category, and healthy snacks are driving growth – the top 7 snacks include yogurt and granola bars.
  • Food categories can explode in growth over night. US Greek Yogurt sales grew from $33million in 2007 to $469 million today!

The key point with all of these trends is that it reflects our busy, compressed lives — smart food companies will continue to learn how to innovate within that reality with new products, aligning themselves to health concerns, and other trends.

3. The impact of business model change and social networks on food and taste trends

Business model change with pop-up restaurants drives the more rapid emergence of new exotic tastes and flavors!

Clearly, massive connectivity is coming to influence the growth of new foods, brands, tastes, patterns.

I spoke, for example, how bacon has quickly become so trendy as something used to enhance countless recipes. It can be traced right back to an effective social networking campaign.

  • “If there’s one food trend that illustrates how top-down and grassroots phenomena combine it might be bacon….. in southern California about six years ago, Rocco Loosbrock paired peppered bacon with Syrah wine at a tasting….”swine and wine…..!” The mysteries of food trends: How bacon got its sizzle, Associated Press Newswires, March 2011
Social networks are also lining up with a change in business models in the restaurant sector, which helps to drive faster change in consumer taste trends…..
  • In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of pop-up restaurants and “Eat St” food – street food!
  • what is happening here is a lower barrier to entry in terms of new restaurant start up cost — more people can get out and start out a restaurant as “street food”, and experiment with new, bold, and exotic tastes and flavors
  • there’s also a very big trend underway that links restaurants and markets together in one location. Go to the restaurant, like the food and want to cook it at home next time? Visit the market in the same building, and buy the exact ingredients for that exact recipe. We call these Resto 2.0’s : for example, Murray’s Market in Ottawa, based on locally farmed food, “….sells cheeses, meats, produce and house-made foodstuffs, providing customers with many of the same raw ingredients they use as their restaurant next door.” Globe & Mail, June 1, 2011
  • all of these trends involve a new breed of restaurateur / entrepreneur;  they’ve learned to link these efforts with very effective social network campaigns. The result is that we now have even faster emergence of new taste trends. Smart food companies will learn how to innovate around the sheer velocity of what is occurring here – ‘faster is the new fast!’

My key point? Innovation is all about time to market … and the brand message needs to match the new speed metric…

4. A new consumer volatility

Back in 2009, I keynote global events for both Burger King and Yum! Brands. One of the major points in both keynotes was the consumer and public health concerns would come to drive more of a focus on a healthier diet; hence, the need for more aggressive innovation around a balanced menu that offered up more healthier choices.

Since then, looking back, it looks like one chain took the message to heart, and the other didn’t. Can you guess which ones?

What’s happened since then? Restaurant chains — and by extension, food companies — are discovering that consumer activity has become very volatile. They might talk of the need to go out and eat healthier, but then go out and continue to buy big, fat juicy cheeseburgers.

But then the news continues to hammer home the cold realities of North American food lifestyles, and the impact of childhood obesity.

  • over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in North America have tripled
  • 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese
  • 1/3 of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives
  • many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma

Add to that new messages from Michelle Obama, Jamie Kennedy and other influencers around this debate — and all of a sudden, behaviour begins to change faster than people expect. Consider comments in the article Dining chains shape up menus ;Customers place low-cal orders now, 13 April 2011, USA Today

  • :Something odd is afoot in restaurants where Americans have typically gone to gorge: healthier grub. This nutritional U-turn is taking place at some of the unlikeliest of eateries, including Denny’s, IHOP, Friendly’s, Sizzler and even at the nation’s biggest casual dining chain, Applebee’s, where the numbers are eye-popping.
  • “For the first two months of 2011, the top-selling entree at Applebee’s wasn’t a gloppy burger or flashy fajita plate. It was a sirloin and shrimp entree from the chain’s diet menu. This marks the first time that a low-calorie item ever ranked as the chain’s best seller for a single month — let alone two in a row.
  • “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s.
  • “When Applebee’s launched the under-550-calorie menu in 2010, it didn’t immediately take off, says Archer. But after some tweaks, it caught fire early this year. It now accounts for up to 8% of sales”

8 percent of sales! For healthy options! The key innovation opportunity is to keep innovating with food and taste trends around trends such as health, local, regional. The consumer is volatile, and will change faster than ever before.

Key marketing and branding innovation points?

  • consumer behaviour is now more unpredictable than ever before!
  • sudden, dramatic shifts driven by sudden external influences or other pressures are the new reality
  • it’s easy to abandon marketing momentum / commitment due to slowness of trend (i.e. healthy lifestyle – consumers say one thing, and do another!)
  • yet success from ability to quickly rejig marketing message based on trend spikes – speed matters!

And  so branding innovation is … sticking to the message behind the key trends, even if the trends unfold at a curious and unpredictable pace….

I spoke about many other trends within the keynote, particularly the impact of mobile marketing and moving into hyper-nice marketing. I’ll cover more of that later.

This is typical of the type of unique research I often do for a keynote. If you are interested in bringing me in to a leadership meeting at your corporate organization, feel free to give me a call!

Here’s a clip from a recent event — actually, my keynote for the national meeting of the PGA — that I think speaks for itself.

I know there’s a big debate going out there, but from my perspective, the problem is real – the scope of the obesity challenge is surreal, mind-boggling and massive in scope.

From my perspective, there’s a lot of opportunity for transformative thinking.

Innovation is always about thinking boldly — thinking about big solutions to big problems.

This problem is certainly a big one, and needs a lot of bold thinking.

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