Marketing maven Blake Mitchell uses a hands-on—or perhaps better put, ‘palate-on’—approach to finding out what will be the next hot food trends.
Mitchell detailed for the audience the method he and his team use at his design and branding firm Interact Boulder to help brands catch on to the latest trends so as to appear as fresh as possible. It’s a model of being “extremely curious and a little bit uncomfortable,” he said.
Mitchell moved his business to Boulder, CO, to be close to what has become a hotbed of natural product innovation, with dozens of well-known brands coming out of that area. And being close to those brands is the method to his madness; he tries to have one-on-one meetings with as many actual makers of new and interesting foods as possible.
“I like to look at trends like a Seurat painting, finding the interesting little dots that make up a whole movement,” he said. “I think we spend more time in grocery stores looking at what’s on the shelf than anyone else.”
Blake said his team visits dozens of city markets, food trucks, restaurants, top tier and second shelf trade shows and other venues around the world every year. They taste hundreds of new foods and beverages fresh from the makers hands. In doing so, he has seen trends emerge such as the move toward fresh and raw food, which on its face runs counter to package and merchandising rules of thumb.
Another trend that Mitchell said is developing into a new phase is the paleo diet craze. Mitchell said while the diet may be passing into history, the values that underpinned it will continue to reverberate in the marketplace. Another trend that he thinks, conversely, will fade from the scene is the use of the term ‘superfood’ in marketing.
“When Chick-fil-A can advertise that they have a ‘superfood’ salad, I think that terms stops meaning much any more,” he said.