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100 Things to Watch in 2012

Advertising agency, JWT, has again released its annual 100 Things to Watch list. As usual, the list for 2012 contains several items of food-bev interest. This entertaining slide show is a wide-ranging compilation of things that reflect broader global trends and shifts that the ad network has been tracking over the past few years; from pop culture, sports, architecture, to fashion and all important, digital technology and social media. Outstanding trendwatching!

JWT 100 things to watch

To view the presentation, click here

Items of food-bev interest extracted from the presentation:

Curbing food waste

As the environmental impact of our food choices becomes a bigger concern – one of our ten Trends for 2012 – watch for more awarness around waste, with brands working to educate consumers and to reduce their own waste. In the UK, packaging will no longer feature a “sell by” date, an attempt to reduce the £12-billion worth of food thrown out annually, while in India the government is trying to rein in traditional lavish weddings in a bid to stave off food scarcity. Unilever’s Food Solutions unit recently launched United Against Waste, a campaign to drive waste reduction in the food service industry.


The Heritage trend is making it way to food with chefs digging up recipes and adding ingredients from yesteryear. The hot resaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, serves bygone British dishes.

Fat taxes

The fat tax is the new sin tax. In a bid to put the brakes on obesity, governments will try to push consumers away from unhealthy foods with cost disincentives. In 2011, Hungary introduced an added tax for foods with high fat, salt and sugar, along with a higher tariff on soad (and alcohol), while Denmark added a tax for high saturated fat foods. Similar legislation has been proposed in Australia and Britain. Look for more national and local governments to follow.

Healthy vending machines

Machines that sell snacks like carrots and apples, hummus, meal replacement bars and yoghurt are popping up in response to consumer interest in nutritious eating, combined with legislation aimed at limiting junk food in schools. As these policies become more widespread, expect more such vending machines – and a black market of sorts for sugary, fatty, salty fare.

“Heirloom” everything

Artisanal has become the overused term du jour in food, heirloom will follow. While it’s been around for a while, starting with tomatoes and beef, lately everything from corn to beans has been getting an heirloom designation, generally meaning an older variety that’s “generically distinct from commercial products”. (Heirloom is mostly used for crops, heritage for livestock). The term is becoming shorthand for “quality” and “natural” (and higher prices). Can it be long before we see heirloom potato chips?


Look for honey to pop up in more foods – touted as a more natural alternative to high fructose corn syrup or sugar – and treatments for everything from coughs to scars and aging skin.

Hydration stations

As the movement to cut the use of plastic and ban the sale of bottled water grows, we’ll see a proliferation of water stations – already popping up on college campuses and in some public spaces – where people can fill resuable bottles.


From a Harvard professor of biomedial engineering comes inhalable caffeine and chocolate. His company, Breathable Foods, is rolling out AeroShot Pure Energy, an inhaler containing a hit of caffeine mixed with B vitamins. Le Whif provides a similar chocolate experience sans calories. The company is working on more products that provide flavourful or nutritional benefits without calories or the need for pills.

Mushrooms as functional food

What’s new about edible fungi? With more varieties now populating supermarket shelves in the West, we’ll see a growing awareness that this low-calorie but highly flavourful food packs a nutritional punch. Euromonitor notes that the benefits of mushrooms, which can lower cholestertol, boost the immune system and, some say, even fight cancer, remain woefully underappreciated. At at time when consumers are loooking to add more to so-called functional foods to their diet, they won’t remain overlooked for long.

The personal retailer

There’s a new wrinkle in the product personalisation trend: consumers profiting from their creations while benefiting the brands. Beverage company “uflavor” will soon enable customers to dream up flavour combos, adding the option to test and sell the drinks via social media.


This hybrid fuit, a combination of plum and cherry, was developed for plum lovers who don’t like juice dribbling down their chin. Breeders have perfected the combination after years of experimentations, and it could be in supermarkets soon.

Smaller SKUs

Food and beverage brands are swinging in the opposite direction from the mega-sizes and bulk offerings they have targeted at budget-savvy consumers; smaller sizes at minimal prices will target extremely cost-sensitive customers in the developed world. HJ Heinz, for example, is introducing several reduced sizes at a suggested retail price of 99 cents in the US and around one euro in Europe, including a 10oz ketchup pouch and a 9oz mustard; Kraft is selling 50 cent gum packs with five sticks of Trident or Stride. This is one manfestation of “Navigating the New Normal”, one of our Ten Trends for 2012.

Spiking food prices

As extreme weather wreaks havoc on crop yields, watch for already-high food prices to spike further thanks to droughts, flooding and other irregularities brought on by climate change. For example, Thailand, the world’s biggest rice producer, is expecting smaller yields thanks in part to its disastrous recent floods. In the US, drought in Texas has thinned cattle herds, which will likely push up beef prices by about eight percent.

Sustainable palm oil

The production of palm oil, an ingredient in everything from cosmetics to cookies to cleaning products, often results in deforestation and habitat destruction. Awareness of the issue is building up, with manufacturers slowly switching over to sustainable palm oil or pledging to do so. Watch for brands to tout their use of GreenPalm certificates (akin to offsets) or to conform with various other certification standards.