Stephanie CoontzStephanie Coontz, a professor at The Evergreen State College in Washington state and director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, has written widely on marriage and family life. A recent New York Times column, for instance, explored “the new instability” in family life due to rising socioeconomic inequality coupled with greater gender equality. In researching our recent report Meet the New Family, we talked to Coontz about some of the ways families around the globe are changing and what’s driving these shifts. 

As more people forego marriage and long-term partnerships in some cases, do you see a rise in finding familial fulfillment through friends?

One of the things I think is important to understand about that is a lot of people are not eschewing romantic relationships, but people move in and out of romantic partners. You have a significant uptake in “living apart together.” A lot of the increase in solo living is because of the delay in the age of marriage and then later, divorce. But most people transition through several of these family archetypes. They’re not just set in stone.

What do you mean by “living apart together”?

About 7 percent of California couples are in this. It’s frequent enough in the Nordic countries that they have this phrase for it. It means that these people are in a committed relationship but do not live in the same house. They may take turns staying at each other’s house, but it’s different than just dating. It’s a very committed relationship, but they don’t feel like living together.

Because you’ve had the breakdown of this lockstep idea that people have to transition into marriage by a certain age, people have become much more free to follow their individual idiosyncrasies. And there are people, especially ones with a certain amount of capital or economic affluence, who can afford to live in separate houses and prefer to have their separate space and yet consider themselves committed couples. I don’t think this is going to become a majority trend, but it’s an interesting little niche that has developed and probably will continue to develop at a modest pace.

How do Millennials feel about pursuing different family models?

Along with this increased freedom to follow your own path is the increasing socioeconomic inequality that is occurring, not just in the United States but across many countries in the developed world. The decline of marriage among educated individuals is actually much less extreme than among low-income individuals and much more connected to choice and idiosyncrasies.

It is the culmination of women’s increased options, the increased tolerance for non-family relationships,—but also men’s declining ability to actually offer themselves as a stable partner who can contribute, who will hold down a job and will have rising real wages like they did in the ’50s and ’60s. The culmination is not purely choice. There’s a big element of necessity in the decline of marriage among less educated and low-income people.

Continue reading “Q&A with Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies, The Evergreen State College” »

Data point_10.06.14

The global snack business reached some $374 billion globally in March 2014, according to research by Nielsen, with sales growing more than two times faster in developing regions than in developed markets. Consumer preferences naturally vary by region, as shown in the chart. North America is predominantly a savory-snack market, while Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa are largely sweet. Asia Pacific consumers tend to buy mostly refrigerated snacks and are least prone to pick salty snacks.

When consumers were asked to choose a specific snack above all others from 47 options, fresh fruit came in first with 18 percent, followed by chocolate at 15 percent—though as Nielsen notes, consumers often say and do different things. Nielsen also reports that in its 60-country survey, 45 percent of respondents rated “all natural” as a very important quality in snacks, while 31 percent cited protein content.

“How we snack as a society is changing,” Nielsen’s James Russo told USA Today. “Snacks are increasingly meal replacements.” Among other things, this shift has given rise to popular snack subscription services like the European hit Graze and natural-snacks company NatureBox in the U.S. “If I’m a big food company,” noted Russo, “I have to think about how to make, market or repurpose products to a consumer who wants to eat on the go, and is using snacks as meals.”

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Based on Advertising Week discussions, Mashable outlines five big trends in advertising right now.

-Adweek’s mobile-focused series, aligned with Advertising Week, includes a look whether mobile can rule the ad world.

-An Economist special report on the effects of the digital revolution (“the third great wave”) includes a look at the “sweeping change” felt in labor markets around the globe and the idea that “development through industrialization is on its way out.”

-The New York Times predicts “a new era at the cash register” with Apple Pay set to launch soon and eBay spinning off PayPal to better compete.

-CNBC outlines how media and entertainment is becoming more “immersive, interactive and customized.”

-As more people use their phones to record seemingly everything, a countertrend—determination to better live in the moment—is building, observes The New York Times.

-More people are turning to social clubs to find the face-to-face interaction that social media is lacking, writes The New York Times.

-McKinsey examines why more than 60 percent of the world’s population remains offline and how to address this imbalance.

-The Atlantic argues that our relationship to ownership will undergo a “wild transformation” with the Internet of Things.

-Fast Company‘s Co.Create takes a look at how a future of virtual assistants—in the guise of wearables—will disrupt marketing.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Digital humans, social clubs and 3D food printing” »

Kit YarrowWhile researching our latest report, Meet the New Family, we asked consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow for her perspective on how changing family structures are affecting consumers, from today’s young parents to the growing population of solo dwellers. Yarrow, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy, also discussed how people are finding and forming meaningful connections and some of the new rules in place for marketers.

How is family changing, and what does this mean for consumers’ psychology?

There are fewer societal expectations of what a family should be, and that has a positive implication in that people can select a structure that makes the most sense for them. This is where you see single parenting, same-sex parenting, more collective friends parenting, more involvement from grandparents and so forth.

There is a struggle people have with that shift as well. On the one hand it gives people a lot of freedom, but on the other hand, that freedom arouses a great deal of anxiety, and there’s more responsibility. When you are reinventing the book on parenting, the result is more psychological work, and there’s a lot more anxiety associated with it.

Could there be an area in your life more anxiety-provoking than whether or not you’re a good parent? Your responsibility to your kids is huge, and so when you are doing things differently, you’re constantly having to evaluate how it’s working, using other people’s feedback to test out how they’re doing it. Some of the ways I see parents dealing with that is through social comparison on social media. But when you have problems and real concerns, you know, social media is just not as helpful as real people to talk to. One of the ways this anxiety plays out in the marketplace is through more social research and a closer examination of the products they’ll choose to help them parent. Brand values are more important than ever.

We found that more people than ever are choosing to live solo. Why is this?

People marry later and live longer, so there is more kid-free time in life today. Once kids are out of the equation, people do connect in different ways. People look for a sense of belonging and family in their communities. A lot of that is happening in online communities or facilitated through online communities, but also through shared hobbies, pets and interests. And there are simply more and more ways for people to connect like that.

Continue reading “Q&A with Kit Yarrow, professor of psychology and marketing, Golden Gate University” »


We included Insects as Protein as a trend to watch in our 2012 food trends report, and today crickets and other bugs are starting to pop up on ingredient listings in the packaged food aisle. While it may seem unlikely that mainstream shoppers will be open to such snacks—at least in Western regions—these insects are packed with as much protein as soy, and consumers have been clamoring for protein (notes Food Business News, “Protein-rich foods have come to the center of product development, menu and merchandising discussions in the food industry”). Another selling point is the environmental benefit, since insects require far fewer natural resources to raise than livestock and poultry and produce little waste.

Several companies are making protein bars from cricket flour. Chapul bars, which come in three flavors, are available in 200 U.S. retail locations. Earlier this year the company was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank. Exo bars are produced by a Brooklyn-based startup that has raised $1.2 million in funding, and Bitty Foods uses cricket flour to make cookies. On a savory note, Six Foods is a startup producing Chirp Chips—tortilla chips made with cricket flour—that are due out later this year. BugMuscle plans to produce a protein powder for the weightlifting set. Finally, U.K.-based Grub simply sells freeze-dried crickets, grasshoppers and worms in their whole form.

While getting a critical mass of people to overcome the “ick” factor will be a challenge, the reasons to eat insects are compelling, as The Economist outlines in a recent video. With Millennials particularly adventurous when it comes to food and the protein trend still on the upswing, these products have a decent chance of gaining traction.

Image credit: Chapul

Data point_09.29.14

With close to a quarter of the world’s population forecast to be using smartphones this year, the mobile device is becoming a hub for an array of everyday activity, from shopping to video viewing to gaming. Mobile analytics company Flurry calls gaming “the lingua franca of mobile,” noting that mobile gaming has become a global pastime, with Android gamers engaging in the activity for an average of 37 minutes a day. (American gamers spend the most time—almost 52 minutes a day on average—followed by Germans and Russians.)

Flurry reports that arcade/action and casual games dominate, although regions differ in interesting ways. As this graphic shows, Germans and Italians stand out for their love of brain and puzzle games, with Flurry noting that word games are particularly popular in Italy. By contrast, around three-quarters of gaming sessions in South Korea involve arcade and action games, with most people playing within the Kakao messaging app. And Brazilians focus on fantasy football (aka soccer) games.

We’ll see more and more companies lean into the global mobile games market, which one study has estimated will double in size between 2013 and 2016, reaching almost $24 billion in another two years. Chinese Internet giant Tencent, for instance, is reportedly building its business on mobile gaming. As mobile consumers spend more time with games, brands will increasingly look to mobile games as the next advertising medium, as The Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-More big businesses are stepping into the void left by political inaction and addressing issues around climate change, reports The New York Times.

-Millennials overwhelmingly believe in the power of large corporations to solve global problems, reports Fortune.

-The New York Times dissects a 25-country study of consumer views on big business.

-A more idealistic and ambitious Generation Z has Salon proclaiming, “Everything advertisers and the media said about [Millennials] has become obsolete.”

-The New York Times reports on a new Pew study of the continued decline of marriage in America and notes that the institution has changed from “a way that people pulled their lives together to something they agree to once they have already done that independently.”

-New York magazine looks at a study that examines current thinking about marriage, including categorizations of the types of marriage mindsets.

-The Guardian examines “Posh Britain” and takes a wider look at privilege today in the U.K.

-Phone calls may be making a comeback, and tech companies are capitalizing with apps meant to make calls “efficient and intimate, yet not intrusive,” reports The New York Times.

-The Washington Post and Fast Company both spotlight the rise of profitable podcast networks.

-Though MOOCs might have lost some buzz, Wired argues that free online classes are still the future of education.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Climate change, podcasting and all things Paleo” »

Kathy SheehanWhile researching our latest report, “Meet the New Family,” we spoke to Kathy Sheehan, who has global responsibility for GfK’s consumer trends services. Sheehan spoke to us about how and why families are changing and how marketers can respond. “You have all types of new and not-so-new family formations becoming more common,” she told us, but also noted, “It isn’t that family is less important or that the notion of family is going away. In fact, it’s stronger than it has ever been.”

From our research, it looks like the shape and definition of family is changing rapidly. Would you agree?

[Family] is changing so quickly, and when you think demographically, demographics traditionally tend to be pretty slow moving and easy to predict where they’re going. What’s happening with family right now is so interesting because it is so dynamic and changing so rapidly. There’s a lot of interest from our clients in understanding where it’s going.

The notion of family is ever more important. So we’re seeing a lot of changes in what the family looks like, but the concept of family is a really cohesive and important component of what people are thinking about—it isn’t that family is less important or that the notion of family is going away. In fact, it’s stronger than it has ever been. It’s just that the definition of what it is is changing and evolving very rapidly. The concept is still very, very relevant.

We see family is still relevant because that’s [people’s] priority, spending time with family. When we ask them what they want to be doing more of, it’s even more focused on family.

The traditional or the conventional family—a mom, dad and 1.x kids—is demographically no longer a majority in the United States. You have all types of new and not-so-new family formations becoming more common. Some of these are driven by the economic cycle that we’re in. For example, the increase in multigenerational households. Part of it is also cultural and demographic: You have an aging population, so you have the trend of people aging in place. You might have more elderly people moving in with their adult children because that’s a more manageable or comfortable living arrangement, given declining health. You also see a demographic driver when you look at certain cultural groups. For example, multigenerational households are much more common in the Hispanic community.

Are there any other key drivers behind these changes?

Culturally, when Gen Xers were the age or younger than Millennials are today, there was that sense of, you were going to move out of your parents’ house no matter what. And that was an important marker or transition point of being an adult. Now what we see with Millennials is the  parent as friend as opposed to parent as parent. So the idea of moving back in with your parents is a lot more palatable than it was to prior generations. Again, that’s driven by the economy, but it is also driven by the relationship that Boomers have with their Gen Y children. So there are a lot of things—demographics or economics or culture—that are feeding into this fluidity of what describes a family.

Continue reading “Q&A with Kathy Sheehan, EVP and general manager, GfK Consumer Trends” »


While local currencies—issued by municipal governments, businesses or even individuals—have long existed, they’ve been undergoing a resurgence thanks in part to the economic crisis and rising income inequality. A local currency can help to mitigate the impact of a troubled economy, potentially stimulating growth in a community by increasing demand for local goods while keeping money from flowing out of the area. That was the impetus behind the creatively named COjacks, a Colorado-wide currency launched by two men in the state last month. Nearly 100 businesses have thus far agreed to accept it—consumers can pay for 10-30 percent of a purchase with the currency—according to Colorado Public Radio.

Other local U.S. currencies include Equal Dollars in Philadelphia, BerkShares in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts and Ithaca Hours, introduced in 1991 to help buoy New York city’s economy during a recession and keep residents employed. Today, more than 900 participants accept Ithaca Hours as payment. Many more examples can be found around the world. For instance, dozens of local currencies circulate in Brazil. In the U.K., examples include the Brixton Pound and Bristol Pound—both of which recently launched mobile payment apps—and the city of Hull’s HullCoin, a digital cryptocurrency launched earlier this year that functions like bitcoin.

With bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies driving people to think about currency in new ways, watch for local forms of money to gain traction in more communities around the world.

Image credit:

Data point_09.22.14

Despite slowing growth in emerging markets, in line with global macro-economic conditions, their middle and upper classes continue to expand. This redistribution of wealth is creating ever more opportunities for luxury brands, with McKinsey noting that, “Growth is increasingly shifting toward emerging markets across all luxury categories.”

Using broad sets of economic and sociodemographic data from 2,600 cities, McKinsey forecasts that emerging countries will account for close to a third of the luxury women’s ready-to-wear market by 2025, a fourfold increase from a decade ago. Emerging markets are expected to comprise almost half the global market in high-end cosmetics by 2025, and 44 percent of the market in luxury spirits—a much greater proportion than they do currently. Helping to drive this growth: the expansion of online retailers like Alibaba in China and Jumia in Africa, which are making luxury products more accessible.

According to McKinsey, much of this growth in demand will be highly concentrated in cities. The world’s top 600 cities are expected to account for 85 percent of growth in the luxury-apparel market by 2025. Several major Chinese cities, along with Rio de Janeiro, will likely join the list of top luxury cities in the world. Of the top 20 cities for luxury-apparel growth, seven are in “Next 15” countries, with China driving half this growth (not surprising considering that earlier this year, McKinsey forecast that China will add close to 300 million more urbanites by 2030). And as we explain in our report The Brazil Opportunity: A Guide for Marketers, Brazil will also represent a substantial growth opportunity for both luxury and mainstream brands.


New Trend Report: The Future of Payments & Currency

2014 iPad App

JWT AnxietyIndex

Things to Watch

  • Money & messaging apps
    October 23, 2014 | 11:13 am


    Given the primary function of mobile messaging apps and their technical capabilities, money transfer and payments are an alluring proposition, as outlined in our new report on payments and currency. Snapchat filed two trademarks in July that indicate a potential move into peer-to-peer payments. The recently announced Line Pay will let Line users make purchases through their Line accounts, send funds to each other, and split costs using a “Dutch Pay” feature. Line Pay will launch in Japan and, as Tech in Asia reports, serve as “an entrance to new industries” thanks to integration with the new Line Taxi service and Line Wow, for food delivery. In South Korea, KakaoTalk launched the PayPal-like Kakao Pay in September, and a remittance service, Bank Wallet Kakao, is in the works. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Line

  • The #TimsDark Experiment
    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

  • Bitcoin bank Circle
    October 7, 2014 | 4:40 pm


    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: Circle

  • High-tech tasting
    October 2, 2014 | 6:00 pm


    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aarhus Universitet

  • Marriage gets marginalized
    September 25, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: JD Hancock


  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm


    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

  • Barco Escape’s immersive screens
    September 11, 2014 | 4:15 pm

    Maze Runner

    Escape is a triple-screen system from Barco that “allows you to truly be in the movies, not just at the movies”—in line with the rise of immersive experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond. Audiences at five U.S. locations and one Belgian cinema will get their first taste of the concept with next week’s release of The Maze Runner, about a group of teens trapped in a massive maze, which will feature about five minutes of immersive footage at key moments. ScreenX is among the other multi-screen, multi-projection cinema experiences we’ve highlighted. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Maze Runner

  • “Smart” personal safety
    September 2, 2014 | 6:01 pm


    Earlier this year we wrote about the Guardian Angel, a pendant that alerts emergency contacts whenever wearers feel unsafe, created by JWT Singapore. Smart technology is addressing personal safety in other ways too. The Defender is a smart pepper spray that works in tandem with a mobile app, taking a picture of an attacker while contacting authorities. It’s in the final week of an Indiegogo campaign that has well exceeded its goal. Similarly, First Sign has crowdfunded a smart hairclip that detects physical assault, records the evidence and sends for help.

    Meanwhile, college campuses are embracing a more basic form of this tech, encouraging students to download apps like Rave Guardian and Circle of 6, which enable a chosen network to monitor a student’s GPS location during a night out. In a different vein, students at North Carolina State University made headlines last week for their Undercover Nail Polish, which changes color in the presence of “date rape drugs.” —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: The Defender

  • Nestlé’s animal-welfare standards
    August 28, 2014 | 10:00 am


    We wrote about rising concerns over treatment of the animals that people eat back in 2012 as brands including Burger King, McDonald’s and Hellmann’s pledged to institute more humane practices. We also included Humane Food among our Things to Watch for 2013. The trend recently picked up more steam with Nestlé’s announcement of animal welfare standards for its suppliers worldwide, following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals.

    “The move is one of the broadest-reaching commitments to improving the quality of life for animals in the food system,” notes The New York Times, “and it is likely to have an impact on other companies that either share the same suppliers or compete with Nestlé.” Observed the influential blogger Food Babe: “People want to know where their food comes from, and in order to survive the next decade, the food industry will have to change.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nestlé

  • Alternative waters
    August 19, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Vertical Water

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