2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

In the past, it was enough to make your purchases in the organic shop around the corner to be considered sustainably minded by most of your acquaintances. Today, an organic lifestyle encompasses much more. Our lives are becoming 360° organic. It is not just our food that is organic or fair trade but our clothing, cosmetics and so much more. Our social thinking is becoming increasingly sustainable after such events as nuclear phase-out, the diesel scandal and Hambacher Forest. Instead of plastic bags, we bring our own cloth bags with us when we go shopping. We use apps that can automatically send emails to brands if their products are too plastic-heavy.

People are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on how sustainable brands are. However, this doesn’t just affect product design and ingredients. We as designers also have to think about sustainable packaging. As communications experts, we should not only take this into consideration in the design of a campaign and the messages we communicate, but also in the selection of locations, influencers, service providers and everything that surrounds them. If we think in this way, 360° organic, it is not only good for our planet, but also for our customers.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

If you want to write about food trends you cannot avoid considering the whole picture, i.e. looking at the major, social mega trends. A wide variety of consumer trends come from these mega trends, and they develop in various directions in different industries and with different target groups.
The impact of trends on the purchasing behaviour of consumers is undisputed. Trends and knowledge about trends have therefore become important elements to help with managing brands.
There is currently more happening in the food sector than ever before. Rapid digitalisation, globalisation with simultaneous nationalisation, the departure away from what is seen as a classic family and away from traditional gender roles and therefore the structure of everyday life, climate change and the resulting responsibility for the environment – all these issues have consequences – even on what we want to eat, how and when we want to eat and how food should be packed. Food trends are never far removed from the major social trends and developments.
This makes it even more exciting to take a look at the food trends that concern us all.

Healthy food

has become an umbrella term. Lots of people want to eat “better” and “more healthily”, but at the same time don’t want to compromise on enjoyment. Generation Y in particular is very open to new concepts and products.
An ethos aspect with a responsibility for the environment and sustainability also always resonates here.
One resulting development is people not eating meat.
If vegetarians were seen as frigid individuals who you looked at with sympathy at a barbecue around 10 years ago, they are now very trendy. Even traditional German sausage manufacturers such as Rügenwalder have followed this trend and are now delighting their whole nation with vegetarian products.
This is commonly referred to in Germany as the “Ersetzer” (replacer). They are for people who are actually looking for the taste of sausage or meat, but prefer the healthier or more politically correct version.

Source: Vegavita

And if we go one step further, we meet the vegans. In the past, vegans appeared almost militant. Nowadays they are the life and soul of the party and have mutated into trend setters. New lifestyle concepts in this category are sprouting like mushrooms from the ground. It is no longer about doing without things, but rather the eating experience. Exotic recipes and ingredients such as humus, chickpeas, tofu and lupines sound exciting and make you want to try things. Attila Hildmann performed pioneering work in this field with his cookbooks. Foodies blog about new recipes, new products, new restaurants, their journeys and other events. A few dogmatic foodies are then included in the group of self-appointed flexitarians. This species goes for the best of everything. Their main interest is the lifestyle they lead rather than a political or healthy approach.

Healthy snacking

Source: Nakd

The dissolution of classic mealtimes – both parents work and the kids are in school until 4 in the afternoon – also means that people eat more irregularly. And the thing we do throughout the day is called snacking. This might not sound healthy but a whole new category has opened up. After all, it isn’t possible to live on chocolate bars and crisps without seriously damaging your health. So there is now a greater demand for healthy alternatives – one of these being bars, but there’s more: they are squeezed out of things that provided good energy: nuts, seeds, dried fruits, superfruits and seeds.


There is even an international brand for this. The concept behind it is providing raw ingredients that have been processed as little as possible and the motto is “without, without, without”.
What “without” means here differs between brands and manufacturers. However, this usually concerns preservatives, colouring agents and often gluten too. Then suddenly “hip” ingredients appear. Protein is currently celebrating a triumph. This is where you can see that one trend sometimes leads to another one. People giving up meat means that new sources need to be found in order to provide a basic supply of essential nutrients. There is therefore a great gap in the market for highly concentrated protein products – sometimes more, sometimes less lifestyling. Even the big industrial brands are trying to jump on this bandwagon.

And this is where a not so new, but still very current trend comes to the forefront again:


The organic trend was a trailblazer and now it is basically standard. Regionality and small factory productions are currently particularly popular amongst younger consumers.
The opposing trend to globalisation and digitisation is therefore very handmade – products wrapped in packing paper, hand-written labels and (individually) stamped brand logos appear personal and create an emotional bond. Countless small labels have emerged that are managing this trend. These brands come across as more honest and more authentic than the brands of major corporations. And when people hear real founder stories to go with it, their hearts fly straight for these brands. Ben and Jerry’s was so successful with their founder story and their concept that they were bought by Unilever.

Retailers have also discovered rationality as a theme are hitting the market with their own concepts. They are trying to connect customers more closely with their markets and to emotionalise their product range by using their own regional and sustainable products. Major brand owners are now responding and staging brands so that they correspond with the look and feel of this trend.

Lifestyle food

Food is increasingly becoming a way to express personal attitudes towards life – it is a way of expressing your individual lifestyle. In the convenience area there are always even more differentiated product ranges of chilled food concepts. What’s new is that a sense of life is now provided too. Eat, drink and be with other people. As well as freshness, regionality and convenience, it is also about the promise of an experience here. If the experience of dining together was a success, whether you prepared everything yourself or shopped cleverly, then this will of course be immediately posted on all social media platforms. Pinterest is overflowing with recipes, cooking events and new blogs. Food blogging has become a real discipline.

The expression of personal standards is also accompanied by an expression of personal attitudes towards life. We particularly see this in the improvement of the quality of fast food. Fast food no longer has to be just “fast”, it also needs to be tasty, healthy and high quality – almost like a gourmet train. Burger trucks are now out and about in all major German cities with culinary highlights. Or new restaurants such as Burger lab in Hamburg are founded.

Digital food

New technologies don’t stop at the kitchen either. Whether Thermomix offers a platform for users to share their recipes with its recipe chip or we can tell Alexa in the future which items are missing from the fridge – the kitchen will only get smarter. The journey from the recipe to shopping (Amazon fresh) is seamlessly networked using kitchen appliances that can be controlled via smartphone.
Nobody has Grandma’s cooking skills anymore anyway and using new technology such as sous vide cooking means that the expensive raw materials at least aren’t wasted. Grandma’s joint of meat is no longer roasted in the oven for hours, instead it is wrapped airtight and then cooked gently in a water bath for a programmed amount of time – with the guarantee of success.
This is, of course, an enormously lucrative field for manufacturers of kitchen appliances and food processors.


Like we’ve already mentioned, a hell of lot is going on in the food sector at the moment. We, as branding experts, are obviously excited to support companies and their brands in identifying the correct trends for their brands or developing innovative products and packaging concepts in line with these trends.

“Manufacturer of sustainable products seeks solvent consumers with an interest in green issues.” This looks like a classified ad, bringing green producers and consumers together. Unfortunately, classified ads are out of fashion and those who buy green products are often very different from what many people think. So where do you find green consumers? And what do they look like?

A quick look back: in the past, people were distinguished by the fact that you could immediately tell who belonged to which group. Purchasers in organic shops in the 80s, for example, belonged to the green-alternative subculture. You could recognise these green environments by their clothing. For women: Birkenstock sandals and a flared skirt. For men probably a leather jacket and striped trousers. In this group they shared not only a passion for sustainable food but an entire world view. Whoever bought organic food was also simultaneously against rearmament and nuclear power but in favour of Nicaragua and the legalisation of cannabis. Tolerance was overlooked via small inconsistencies – such as the over-compensation of the beneficial effect of organic apples by mass consumption hand-rolled cigarettes. You would be against a crazy idea like an “organic supermarket”, using the jargon of the times, believing it to be an intrinsic contradiction, in other words an almost ridiculous idea. An organic shop had to be anti-capitalist, small and somehow or other be called Rapunzel.

Today, the world looks rather different. Organic foods have undergone an unparalleled career. There are not only organic supermarkets, there is even organic food at discount stores. And under the extended term “sustainable” there’s everything from fair-trade smart phones to holidays. But where has the clearly identifiable green environment gone?

A clear answer: it doesn’t exist anymore. Clearly defined environments in which one shared everything from fashion to ideology are either extinct, have shrivelled to insignificance or are more or less involuntary emergency associations (e.g. pensioners in dying villages). Instead, there is a patchwork existence as an individual equivalent of the patchwork family. You can make use of individual drawers of a huge lifestyle storage shelf and build up your own individuality together. And this is often not of pleasure, but because it has become a necessity. Where there is no environment to connect to, there is, so to speak, pressure for freedom. And the price of this freedom is firstly disorientation. Therefore, the search for guidance is as pronounced as ever. Each look at a Smartphone is a look to guide yourself. Am I still up to date? Have I missed something important? What should I do?

To illustrate how radical this change is, have another look back to our green-alternative environment of the 80s. Then it was discussed constantly, but only to reassure themselves that the shared ideology stood on a firm foundation. The perceived progressiveness of the group was at the expense of individuality within the group. If someone had said “No to rearmament” and “No to Nicaragua” simultaneously, one would have at best assumed that someone had smoked something wrong. This pressure to conform was not perceived as a loss – after all, they were indeed on the right side. In return, there was also a lot of love and security, and confirmation. And indeed this comforting feeling is lacking today. People who seek the company of others who think the same way as themselves have to go to a football stadium.

Of course, the desire to build communities beyond football is still there. And indeed it is the will to belong to the “community of the good” that drives sustainable consumption. Only it is simply no longer a closed environment in which this takes place. Statistically, about half of the population in developed countries belongs to the community of those who are “somehow sustainably oriented”. However, if one looks for similarities within this large group, it becomes vague. Trend: the wealthier and more educated you are, the greener you are. The poorer and educationally disadvantaged you are, the less interest you have in sustainable consumption. This is also obvious. It is more interesting to consider the motives for sustainable consumption. In closed environments with high moral ideals – like the faded green environment of the 80s – consequence was the most important driving force. In other words, you wanted the things that you stood for ideologically to be implemented as well and as comprehensively as possible. Implication: “Let’s create a better world.”

In today’s world of patchwork existence, however, it comes to compensation. Not everything we have pulled off the lifestyle-shelf and integrated into our lives is sustainable. Strictly speaking, much of it not sustainable. And because we are aware of it, we are simultaneously doing things to compensate for this: “I fly to Bali but I cycle to the office”, or “I live in a very big apartment but I have solar panels on the roof”. Compared to the idealistic consistency of the green pioneers this obviously appears a bit weak. Instead of saving the world we are content with doing a little something so that it doesn’t perish. Overall, the balance for sustainability is positive though: a) because there are many more people participating, at least sporadically, in sustainable consumption and b) because the range of sustainable products is growing steadily.

As a final question: how do we reach the great mass of consumers, some of whom consume sustainably? The answer is simple: by giving guidance. It has already been said that through the disappearance of closed environments and the emergence of patchwork existences a compulsion has arisen for people to define themselves. There is a correspondingly high demand for guidance. Guidance which companies must give. When consumers who are looking for guidance are simultaneously asked by companies what they would like, that’s not on. Figuratively speaking: It’s no good when two disoriented people ask each other for directions at a crossroads. It is the company’s task to bravely say where it’s headed. They must clearly formulate what they stand for as far as sustainability is concerned and state why they do what they do. The more attractive and credible this communication turns out to be, the more likely it is that guidance-seeking consumers will pounce upon it.

Interestingly, a circle closes here: the world again belongs to the persistent men of conviction – only this time they are on the corporate side.

This article was published on

Anna Gauto, editor at “forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften”, spoke to Pavan Sukhdev and Florian Haller on advertising and sustainability. Pavan Sukhdev is a former manager at Deutsche Bank and founder of the “Corporation 2020” sustainability campaign. Florian Haller is CEO of the largest independent advertising agency in Europe, the Serviceplan Group. Both will speak at SusCon 2012 in Bonn.


Anna Gauto: Advertising does whatever you ask of it. Is advertising blameless?
Florian Haller
: Advertising is not blameless. It is responsible for how a brand is perceived. Our task is to support and guide it with this in mind. For this reason, advertising cannot be blameless.
Pavan Sukhdev:
Advertising is certainly not blameless. Advertisers like to think of themselves as experts, who cater only to the needs of their clients. In order to break through the system of reckless consumption, however, both advertising agencies and the companies they represent must consider the message they are sending out.


Today, companies are effectively adopting the concept of sustainability for advertising purposes. How has sustainability become a sign of a company’s prestige?
The trend towards a sustainable way of living comes from people, not companies. Well-managed brands are using this desire for sustainability as a business opportunity.
We have numerous hard-working writers, scientists, entrepreneurs and citizens to thank for the fact that environmental issues have become so prevalent. How the term sustainability has become so popular, however, is a mystery to me. It is often used incorrectly. It actually describes activities which have been practised for centuries. Companies must be able to account for any claim to being sustainable. This is why the standardisation and regulation of ratings, rankings and seals of quality is necessary.


Cigarette advertising shows that selling well does not automatically mean selling something good. Does advertising need a conscience?
Advertising per se is an instrument which can be used in many different ways. For this reason, advertising as such is neither moral nor immoral. Advertising is, however, a powerful instrument, which can be used to turn a moral concept into a business opportunity.
Sukhdev: Advertising does need a conscience, but we shouldn’t leave it to the industry alone to develop it. We need to ask ourselves which advertising techniques are excessively misleading and what sort of information should be included on product packaging.


There is an increasing demand for ecological products. Has consumer behaviour changed advertising or is it the other way round – has advertising influenced consumers?
I don’t think we can overestimate the influence of advertising. The need for sustainability has been shaped by reports on climate change and wildlife conservation as well as numerous food scandals. For two years we have been using the Sustainability Image Score to investigate which companies in Germany are perceived as sustainable. This allows us to determine how the public perception of a company’s sustainability affects its brand value and therefore its corporate success. One important finding is that companies should not only use the opportunity to put sustainability into practice, but to discuss it intensively and professionally, at the same time winning over consumers. They must practise what they preach.
When it comes to the ever more popular topic of sustainability, consumers have far more influence over advertising than the other way round. One should encourage the other. Read more