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Contemplations on Design for 2020

Updated: May 15, 2023

By: Vrishali Kekre Deshmukh

Recently, I returned from a visit to Anuga, the world’s largest trade fair for food and beverages. This was my first visit to the fair, which takes place every two years in Cologne, Germany. Spanning over eleven large halls and many sub-halls, Anuga was indeed enormous! Like any other trade fair of this magnitude, the trends here are a two-way street. While they are influenced by the journey of the industry so far, it also points to where the industry in heading in the future. In my opinion, these trends are sure to stay for a minimum of two years, if not more.

This year also marked the 100th year for Anuga, but with no previous year to compare it with, I will continue this blog for what I saw in this one.

With 2020 upon us, most blog pages will speak about a host of trending matters. Trends to look forward to, what design will look like this year and so many more! So, instead of a conventional piece on design predictions for India in the new year, it would be nice to take a moment instead and reflect on some global trends, which we would also like to see in India.

Here is my take on the seven very impressive global trends that would make complete sense in the Indian context too:

1. Keeping Up With Changing Food Habits and Allergies

In India, while manufacturers and marketers are indeed slowly waking up to the growing numbers of food allergies that afflict consumers, we probably need to now go beyond mere pack/ tag claims. With food and health trends changing rapidly especially amongst urban consumers, gluten allergies, diabetes and veganism too, are gradually changing the way people consume food. Alternatives such as gluten-free, sugar-free, meat-free have been ruling European culinary styles and supermarket shelves for some time now, with at least one in five products catering to these. Taking a cue, now may just be the time back home, we emphatically work towards creating packaging and claims that provide functional benefits to consumers!

2. Do We Feel Proud

Each exhibiting country at the Anuga had a beautiful, well designed pavilion, showcasing their roots. Except India sadly, which left much to be desired! Not just visual aesthetics, but the adequate representation of our rich Indian culinary culture was also completely missing. Perhaps because most significant Indian brands chose to stay away from the India Pavilion. While chicken tikka masala becomes the UK's national dish and Curry Nights become a catchphrase, there seems to be little pride within Indian companies to identify with their roots.

3. Making Food Consumption Inclusive

Speaking about changing food habits, culinary traditions and dietary habits are also often influenced by geographical regions and culture. I believe, factoring in these influences while designing for food consumption would help consumers connect to products and brands better. It could be something as simple as certifying meat products as Halal, at restaurants as well as in packaging. Most international players at Anuga seemed to take cognizance of this food preference and displayed these claims up-front on their products; even the ones that are obviously meat-free such as ice-creams, butters, etc. This is a discussion that the world community needs to actively participate in, if we want to make food and the way it is served and consumed, more inclusive.

PS: Did u know vanilla and gelatin are non-halal products? I found that out on this trip! 4. What is Your Story

It has become evident that the world over, products are now becoming unified. Everywhere we see, each brand has the same range as the other, with an exception of a product or two. And if there is innovation in the products itself, technology has made it very possible for others to follow suite immediately. In a scenario like this, the only thing that remain own-able is the story! What is the promise that your brand makes, is a question to ask manufacturers. Because, what truly makes a brand unique, is its story. And that, no one can copy!

5. Embracing Technology in its True Sense

I see plenty of brands today adding a QR code to their packaging and believing that

that’s technology integration! But what next? Are the buyers’ needs as minimal as scanning a QR code that leads to a website? Here is some food for thought…at Anuga we saw technology creep into packaging design in the form of digital shelves, smart packs, colour changing labels, holographic labels, 3D printing, variable printing, RFID, accountability, traceability and much more. Can we not innovate on materials or can the scanning not lead to newer and innovative experiences that truly amaze the buyer?

6. Can We Think of the Earth

An argument we face time and again in India, ‘is food wastage a bigger problem or plastic’? When material gets questioned, it almost always presents a counter argument of food wastage due to shelf-life reduction, integrity of distribution networks, pilferage and counterfeit issues. Many of the exhibits at Anuga highlighted how globally people are beginning to embrace 100% recyclable materials, eco-friendly alternatives, starch-based/ plant-based substitutes for packaging. This not only alleviates the burden on our planet, but also builds a great brand story for the woke consumers to buy into. Traditionally, we Indians are no strangers to the concept of recycling; remember the stainless-steel lunch boxes we carried to school and work long before we began using plastic ones? Perhaps now is the time to return to our roots and incorporate this mindset not just in packaging, but also in our recycling and distribution networks, cold chains and in our fight against counterfeits!

7. Can We Commit

This one for sure struck me as clear thinking and targeting. Most global brands know EXACTLY who they are taking to and what they want to do! They target habits, life stages, and attitudes that transcend age and economic bracket. While this trend is catching up in India too, only time will tell, if micro-targeting is successful in the economics of our marketplace, as against a more conventional pattern of profiling a generic audience in the hope of appealing to a broader spectrum.

These are a few observations that struck a chord in me. They may not be design trends as we conventionally understand them, but they certainly have the potential to influence the way we do business in India.

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