Forecasting trends is risky business. Whether or not trends will actualize as envisioned can be made less uncertain only by the quality of knowledge at hand. One of the most difficult aspects of financial and cultural analysis is recognizing the importance of and advising on the strategic implications of emerging patterns as trends (in culture, for example). For those whose job description includes identifying “early signals” or potential trends well ahead of time, the artistic aspect of trendspotting is crucial. Listening to consumers, especially those on the edge of food and health and wellness culture, is a critical component of how The Hartman Group looks into the future.
As an example, asked to weigh in on what fruits and vegetables might be emerging as food trends on the horizon, The Hartman Group’s Melissa Abbott, Vice President of Hartman Retainer Services, noted to the Huffington Post that both honeynut squash and expanded use of mushrooms were emerging. Commenting on where she looks for trends like these, she said, "The best way to understand where trends are coming from is looking toward the progressive consumer, the one who is proselytizing about anything and everything. I don’t call them foodies — they’re culinary obsessives. We spend a lot of time with them, and the chefs that are really pushing the envelope. We’ll look at their menus, look at their pantries and fridges.” 
Commenting on the scope of what it takes to read signals for trends, Melissa added, “We’re even seeing agriculture playing a bigger role. Anthropologists are out in the jungle finding amazing things in the Amazon or Peru. It’s not just chefs anymore. It’s coming from all places.”
Signals coming from all places indeed — and yet, listening to progressive consumers remains a central element of how we determine what's emerging in food and health and wellness culture. From our experience, we know that progressive consumers have been a window on the future of those worlds. Listening to progressive consumers has predicted demand for clearer labeling of food and beverage production methods as well as provenance and nutrition, making us all savvy consumers. 
Progressives have intimated they believe it should be mandatory to disclose how something is grown and whether anything is added to that process, such as pesticides, as well as the potential impact they may have on human health. Like it or not, from the progressive consumer perspective, GMO crops are expected to be taken to new levels beyond the current focus of technology to intensify production. With this, we can expect biodynamic farming to become more prominent in the coming years. 
By listening to progressive consumers, we've become more attuned to beliefs about the environmental impacts of both industrial and sustainable farming methods, and we can see that consumers may be more inclined to make significant changes to their lifestyles, with a focus on more sustainable diets. Based on what progressives have told us, we've seen a more sophisticated understanding of digestion and inflammation spread to the mainstream. 
Wherever trend signals originate, visionary food companies can develop a passion for food culture and understand the progressive consumers so they can authentically speak to mainstream consumer aspirations. If you're interested in learning more about how we hunt for trends, The Hartman Group’s proprietary Trend iD process formula is geared for actionable results and includes:
  • Identifying meaningful early signals through cultural analysis
  • Differentiating between short-term fads and more impactful long-term trends
  • Understanding barriers to the knowledge and sensory experience that can hinder results
  • Identifying products that solve high-stakes trade-offs for a committed subpopulation or simply offer modern approaches to meeting existing desires
  • Not shying away from niche consumer audiences