Rogue Report Episode 5

In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine notices her boss eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork. Surprised, she describes the situation to George and Jerry. Later in the episode, George tries the technique and in turn is seen by his boss. By the end of the episode we see that this curious method of eating a chocolate bar has spread far past their immediate circle of friends and has become a trend. Today, Elaine’s boss would perhaps be called an influencer.

Food trends are not always that obvious or circular. Some take years or decades to emerge while others move quickly across the world. Some are happenstance while others are the result of careful planning.

What can brands learn from how some food trends come and go and how others take hold and become diet staples?

Create desire

If you love (or even just like) potatoes you have Antoine-Augustin Parmentier to thank.

His strategies for popularizing the potato close to 300 years ago could still be used as a playbook for brands today. Parmentier not only held invitation only suppers featuring the spud, he set up an elaborate stunt to position the potato as a most desirable food.

On land donated to him by the King, Parmentier created a garden of potato plants. Guards were hired to watch over the garden. The genius part was that the guards were instructed to look away as soon as anyone attempted to steal a potato. Thus planting the suggestion in people’s minds that potatoes were indeed valuable (and perhaps even worth risking prison for).

What does this mean for your brand?

The illusion of scarcity has helped several brands grow at a faster pace than if their product was more widely available. Sneaker companies have played on this with limited edition colour ways or themes of popular models.

The current popularity of the Stan Smith sneaker can partially be attributed to the fact that adidas removed them from the market in the early 2010’s in order to create a bigger buzz once they were reintroduced a few years later.

Now trending

While Parmentier pushed the hand of fate, the success of his interventions were helped along by the fact that in the late 1700’s France was looking for a replacement for wheat and that the lowly potato had saved a number of lives during a famine in the north of France. As stated in this space previously, the intersection of trends and events is fertile ground for the genesis of new trends. Intersecting trends can help explain the current interest and popularity of fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.

One of these trends is the continued rise in interest for superfoods (natural foods of which the benefits go beyond simple sustenance).

The second is our evolving tastes meaning people are seeking new and novel sensations. With their distinct tastes and purported positive impact on gut health, fermented foods fit nicely into the aforementioned trends.

What does this mean for your brand?

Consider the trends or even legislation changes that could have an impact on your brand. The impact of the legalization of cannabis is great example. CBD and THC have shown up as an ingredients in countless different products.

Facing increases in rent and overhead costs amid the difficult state of bricks and mortar retail, some third wave coffee shops now shift into natural wine bars in the evening. A smart move for profits but also based on the realization of their consumers overlapping interests in both beverage types.

Always be (slightly) reinventing

We eat our potatoes a bit differently (or at least with a few more variations) than Parmentier did. He might not have imagined the ways we would eat potatoes today, whether frozen french fries, the Canadian poutine, or even hash browns. So not only do our perceptions of certain foods change over time but the way we consume them do as well.

Consider mochi ice cream. While mochi ice cream dates back to the early 1990’s, the sweetened rice dough that forms the exterior of the treat has been consumed in Japan for several hundred years. The new twist on it puts mochi ice cream well on its way to someday becoming a household name across North America.

What does this mean for your brand?

People’s tastes and behaviours evolve. Consider ways that your brand can remain relevant throughout your consumer’s lives. This doesn’t always mean radical change. A recent commercial from the Egg Farmers of Canada simply encourages people to consider eggs outside of the typical morning window.


Act first

Humans are creatures of habit; a trait that serves us well, as eating the wrong thing could lead to an untimely death. The potato was once seen as poisonous. After all, it’s grown underground and was fed to pigs. To test his belief it was comestible, Parmentier lived on a potato diet. What currently ignominious food might we adopt on a large scale?

The insect-as-food market will reach 1 billion dollars in the coming decade. Entomologist Georges Brossard’s mission was to help people better appreciate insects. He promoted insects as a sustainable source of protein. The Montreal Insectarium, founded in part by Brossard, often holds events to allow the general public to taste for themselves. Will we look back on him as the one who instigated the arrival of insects on our plates?

What does this mean for your brand?

Do before you say. We can’t expect people to quickly adopt behaviours that might previously have appeared strange to them. George Brossard understood this well.

Instead of trying to convince people to eat insects right away he knew that he would first have to change the overall perception of insects. He brought insects to people instead of expecting people to go towards insects.

Change doesn’t come easily. Consumers are creatures of habit. But much like Parmentier and Brossard, brands must pay attention to circumstances and contexts where breaks in habits lead consumers to a period of openness, and then to the creation of new habits.