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3_TRENDS_Vol.10: Andrea Hernández: Curation as Service, Functional Unwinding + Alt-World
3_TRENDS is an interview series with the world's leading cultural researchers and thinkers, sharing their favorite overlooked trends.
Andrea Hernandez (AH) is based in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and with over a decade of marketing experience, she is a consultant who runs Snaxshot, a newsletter which offers insight into upcoming food and beverage trends with a unique, but global perspective.
MK: Andrea, what’s on your mind?
Curation as Service
AH: The need for curation in food, beverage and groceries alike stems from an overabundance of options — and we’ll see more of experiential grocers lean into discovery, and an increase in online grocery shopping... the niche marketplace.
In my opinion, a signaler of trendiness no longer lies in the oversaturated shelves of Erewhons. People have paralysis with an overabundance of options and crave curation — a removal of friction in the process of discovery. This movement can be seen both IRL (ex. PopUp Grocer opening their first flagship, and the Foxtrot model raising money to expand their concept, who I call “CaaS Daddy”), to URL niche markets like Multiverse and Umami, to curated bundles like Cub Pantry or Tiny Bodega, and even curation via utility in the likes of GoPuff, Instacart, etc.
MK: Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote The Paradox of Choice in 2004, but its importance only climbs along with our increase in choices.
“Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”
Choice invites doubt of satisfaction and an uncertainty of “the other options.” Selecting one, means giving up others.
So, when “others” increase, the weight of “giving up” only compounds, decreasing our current satisfaction.
In a scientific meta-analysis of near 100 studies, it was found reducing choices for your customers is most likely to boost sales.
People don’t want more choice. They want more confidence.
Curation as Service is — and will be — a successful strategy as “curation” implies expertise. When one curates for you, you can’t choose wrong.
AH: As the “new category” in food and beverage, this is a term I coined which speaks to how many products are no longer looking to make us commit to a singular state, but instead simply help us complement our states.
One of the most notable brands in this space is Recess and their Mood line. The rise of adaptogenic “everything” is also an indicator, as we are trying to “mold” products to our own behavior (“adaptors”).
We want coffee but with less jitters, so cue the rise of micro-dose caffeine or adaptogenic sports drinks like Bar Code, etc.
MK: Food is innately functional. It’s to prevent our own death. ~100% success rate. But secondarily, it’s to regulate our mood and energy. We’ve always needed nutritious energy to hunt and gather.
Where we’re at now though is the meticulous control over these moods that we crave, or detest. Functionality remains, however now just at a higher order and with more specificity.
To me, mind and mood is just one step away from emotion, and I wonder if we’re eating our way towards that latter, more radical space.
Consuming for rest and serenity, or for energy and vitality is table-stakes, but how about consuming for amazement and giddiness (see: THC-as-ingredient), or pride or intensity? Will we ever see sadness on the menu? We sell fear at the movies, after all...
As food and beverage further blurs with wellness, vitamins and mental regulation, where are the boundaries of innovation?
Food drugs are coming.
AH: It’s an alt-world. We're just eating it.
Cell agriculture is the future in lieu of plant-based alternatives. Out of the $3.1B industry that is “Alternative Foods,” seafood comprises only 1% of it... even though we have rapidly depleted our oceans by overfishing, and our seas are warming up.
We have seen just how detrimental it can be to exploit “alternative ingredients” like almonds, which rapidly became taboo, even as they’re touted to be a better alternative to dairy.
The future of food, may lay inside a Petri dish.
With a historic regulatory approval for cultivated meat in Singapore last year, we can only see the world catching up to this.
MK: This past year, I reported “Synthetic Senses” as the 11th largest Meta Trend — the race to go beyond meat means experimenting with simulation and substitution.
From Petri dishes to dinner dishes.
As a frequent Soylent drinker, I’ve fully embraced artificial nutrition (...their ideologies aside).
I see Soylent on the other end of the spectrum to our bleeding red beef patties. But Alt-World plays in the middle. Alt-World acknowledges the existing “format” (milk, meat, fish) and then scientifically emulates it. It bridges the farm and the lab, trying to meet in the middle. Soylent doesn’t try. It’s pure lab.
So on this spectrum, one of Alt’s biggest hurdles is that it doesn’t taste, smell or feel exactly like the real thing. So, we have two options: 1. continue innovation until Alt tastes exactly the same as the OG (it can’t even be “better” because better can be too different), or 2. stop pretending and equating Alt to the original.
Will we ever grow out of this comparison habit and just blindly down the mixture?
That’s a hard one to swallow.