Cocktails and Canapés: J. Walter Thompson Explores the Future Of Food and Drink in Its Latest Trend Report

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Fat is back, ethical eats, food porn is the new norm, and cannabis connoisseurs on the rise



The Innovation Group, the innovation and futurism unit of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, reveals the future of food and drink in its latest trend report. As the pace of innovation in food and drink accelerates—driven by digital media, advances in technology and a newly politicized awareness of food among consumers—the report offers a snapshot of today’s innovations and what they reveal about the food and drink consumers of the future.

“Today’s food and drink consumers are more sophisticated than ever before,” said Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group. “Our research shows that both US and UK consumers are placing increasing importance on food and drink as an experiential luxury and reflection of their personal identity. We also found that Millennials, despite their well-documented economic challenges, are demanding higher-quality food, visual stimulation, and technologically enhanced experiences.”

The report includes a statistical introduction based on original data from SONAR™, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research unit. Original data highlights include:

  •     74% of US Millennials and 58% of UK Millennials believe that marijuana will become as socially acceptable as alcohol over the next decade.
  •     Foodie culture has gone mainstream, as it becomes an increasingly important part of personal identity. 4 out of 5 US Millennials say that they consider going out to eat to be a cultural experience.
  •     Ethically minded consumers want ethically minded brands. 93% of US Millennials and 79% of UK Millennials would support food brands that help society become healthier.
  •     72% of US and UK Millennials are more likely to purchase gourmet or high-quality food today than they were several years ago.
  •     72% of US and UK Millennials are more likely to share pictures of food and drink if it is different or unique, versus only 22% of boomers.
  •     More than half of US and UK Millennials use technology like apps and wearables to maintain a healthy diet.
  •     62% of UK Millennials agree that online food delivery services have made meal preparation much easier for them, versus only 21% of boomers.

The report also features qualitative reporting that delves into the latest future-facing food and drink trends, as well as case studies of the best food and drink innovations. Key trends include:


Flexitarians: The new omnivores
Plant-based products are becoming indistinguishable from meat, while small-scale meat producers increasingly market their wares to vegetarians. We are all “flexitarians” now.

Delivery futures
Ordering takeaway on smartphones is old news—get ready for curated delivery, delivery-only restaurants and even zero-cost delivery by self-driving car.

Fat is back
Discourse around fat is changing. Far from being off the menu, it’s back and is being positively encouraged by brands and chefs in new products and ingredients.

Food porn is the new norm
Awash in food imagery on social media, consumers are gravitating towards surprising and compelling images that aim more for the mind than the stomach.


Cannabis connoisseurs
A wave of marijuana legalization in the US has freed beverage startups to experiment with THC infusions, as well as non-intoxicating hemp concoctions. The majority of consumers surveyed across Millennials, Gen X and Boomer generations agree that marijuana will be as socially acceptable as alcohol over the next decade.

Health meets hedonism
Health-conscious Millennials are having their cake and eating it too when it comes to alcohol, gravitating toward healthier mixers and mashing up exercise with hedonism.

Not your mother’s “Tom Collins”
The cloying cocktails of the 1970s and 80s were long considered passé, but they are making a comeback as mixologists reinvent them for sophisticated, modern palates.

Virtual sensoria
Experiential marketing for beverages is becoming more immersive as drink brands dip their toes into virtual reality storytelling.

For this report, the Innovation Group conducted quantitative studies using SONAR™, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research unit that develops and exploits new research techniques to understand cultures, brands and consumer motivation. A total of 1,003 US and UK individuals were surveyed in July 2015.

About J. Walter Thompson Company
J. Walter Thompson Company was founded in 1864 and has been making pioneering solutions that build enduring brands and business for more than 150 years. Today under the leadership of Global CEO Gustavo Martinez, the company has evolved to include several global networks including J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, Mirum and Colloquial.

About the Innovation Group
The Innovation Group is J. Walter Thompson’s futurism, research and innovation unit. It charts emerging and future global trends, consumer change and innovation patterns — translating these into insight for brands. It offers a suite of consultancy services, including bespoke research, presentations, co-branded reports and workshops. It is also active in innovation, partnering with brands to activate future trends within their framework and execute new products and concepts.

The Innovation Group is part of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, a platform for global research, innovation and data analytics at J. Walter Thompson Company. It houses three key in-house practices: SONAR™, Analytics and the Innovation Group. For more information, please visit and follow us @JWTIntelligence.

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