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This fall, I’m headling a major retail event in Las Vegas – Xcelerate 2017! Details are here.


There’s a lot of change underway – and certainly, the Amazon/Whole Foods situation is a wake up call for everyone. I’ve been speaking about the decline and transformation of traditional retail for over 20 years. In the 1990’s, I even wrote a book about e-commerce that was translated into German and Russian, as well as being picked up and distributed by Visa USA to it merchants.

Retailers must scramble to keep up with fast paced change. Maybe that’s why Godiva Chocolates has had me to Europe twice this year for insight on what’s going on.

Here’s the description for my September keynote.

The Disruption and Reinvention of Retail: Aligning to the World of Speed  

It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. Consider this: E-commerce could be 25% of the retail – grocery and convenience — experience by 2021. Shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology for a new form of in-store promotion, continues to move forward. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay and disappearance of the cash-register, providing opportunity and challenge with loyalty, infrastructure and disruption. Then there is Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots! Simply talk and products are added to your shopping cart, and delivered within an hour! Let’s not stop — there’s also the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location). And last but not least, the arrival of active, intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products, collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain!

We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next 5 year than we have seen in the last 100. Savvy brands, retailers, shopping mall and retail infrastructure companies are working to understand these trends, and what they need to do from an innovation perspective to turn them from challenge to opportunity.  Futurist Jim Carroll will help us to understand the tsunami of change sweeping retail.

When the GAP went looking for a trends and innovation expert to speak to a small, intimate group of senior executives, they chose Jim Carroll. He has been the keynote speaker for some of the largest retail conferences in the world, with audiences of up to 7,000 people in Las Vegas, including Consumer Goods Technology Business & Technology Leadership Conference • Subway • Multi-Unit Franchise Conference Las Vegas • Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit • Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit • Retail Value Chain Federation • Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) Global Leadership Conference • Burger King Global Franchise Meeting • VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executives) Summit • Manufacturing Jewelers Suppliers of America • National Home Furnishings Association • Do It Best Corporation • US Department of Defence Commissary Agency • Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Group Branding/Retail Summit • Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association • National Association of Truck Stop Operators • Convenience U annual conference • Point of Purchase Advertising International Association • Chain Drug Store Association of Canada • Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors • Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers


My message on the speed of change in retail is drawing attention, further and further afield.

Case in point – yesterday, I was a keynote speaker for a global leadership meeting of Pladis held in London, UK. This is the newly merged entity of three iconic global brands — Godiva Chocolate, McVitie’s biscuits from the UK, and Ulker from Turkey.  I was asked to provide my insight to 300 executives from around the world in a morning keynote, and then followed this up in an intimate discussion with members of the board and the senior management team.

It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. Consider this:

  • e-commerce could be 25% of the retail – grocery and convenience — experience by 2021
  • “shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology for a new form of in-store promotion, continues to move forward
  • mobile payment involving Apple Pay and disappearance of the cash-register, providing opportunity and challenge with loyalty, infrastructure and disruption
  • the continued migration to the same-day shipping model from titans such as Google, Amazon, John Lewis
  • Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots! Simply talk and products are added to your shopping cart, and delivered within an hour
  • the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location)
  • faster ‘store fashion’ with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction
  • the arrival of active, intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products
  • collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain
  • the evolution of the automobile to an online shopping and credit card platform (yes, this is real….)

Here’s the thing – we are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next 5 year than we have seen in the last 100. Savvy brands, retailers, shopping mall and retail infrastructure companies are working to understand these trends, and what they need to do from an innovation perspective to turn them from challenge to opportunity.

That’s my role. This is all happening in the context of massive and fast disruption as new competitors enter the food, CPG and retail space. Consider this chart of players in 2016 from Rosenheim Advisors, and look at the players in each category.


The rate of change is going from fast to furious, and innovation is critical!

My keynote title for London yesterday? “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change!” Learn more in the retail and consumer products trends section of my Web site.



I was recently interviewed by the folks at the Speciality Foods Association, for my thoughts on what is happening in their sector.

How a Futurist Deciphers Trends
By Brandon Fox, January 2016


Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span.

Author, speaker, and consultant Jim Carroll offers global trend analysis and strategies for change to companies as varied as Johnson & Johnson, the Walt Disney Corporation, and Yum! Brands. Here, he discusses why trends are more complicated than “what’s hot or what’s not,” the lightning speed of consumer influencers, and why experimentation is necessary to build shopper relationships.


Boy, where do we start? I take a different approach—it’s not “what’s hot or what’s not,” but how are things changing and how quickly can specialty food come to market

People are influenced faster than say, five or 10 years ago—or even a year ago—and a lot of that has to do with social networks, but also with just the way new concepts and new ideas are put in front of them.

I spoke to a group of beverage executives a couple of years ago about what was happening with food and alcohol. I told them to think about “Mad Men.” All of sudden, 1960s retro drinks were all the rage. It happened quickly because people are influenced in new and different ways. It’s not, “what are the new taste sensations?” but “where are those new taste sensations coming from?”

[As for what’s emerging now,] consider how hummus grew as a trend—and then consider what comes next: more quinoa, buckwheat, and rice [products] as people seek similar healthy snack and meal options. And there are fascinating new developments like fruit sushi, chocolate-flavored soda, and even bacon-flavored vodka.”


One example I use all the time is bacon. I traced it back from an article that appeared in the Associated Press newswire in March 2011. The article was called “How Bacon Sizzled and People Got Sweet on Cupcakes.” [The author] followed the trend back to a wine distributor in Southern California who, about six years ago, paired a Syrah with peppered bacon at a tasting. That somehow got out onto the blogs of the time and all of a sudden, boom! Bacon became hot. Everyone talks about Facebook and Twitter all the time, but it’s a new kind of connectivity in terms of how we eat and drink and how we share and talk about it.


Huge impact. It used to take a new taste trend from a high-end restaurant five years [to filter down] and now it takes six months or three months or less because there is so much exposure. And another thing is food trucks. People can’t meet the high capital cost of a new restaurant, so they roll out a truck. They’re everywhere. You have people with obvious skills. They can now do what they want and get in front of an audience. And with television shows like the Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street,” it’s a supernova that’s moving faster than ever before.


Too fast or too slow? When the low-fat and low-carb trends came along, by the time [companies] got a product to market, the trend had come and gone. One fascinating experience was when I was doing a talk for Reader’s Digest’s food and entertainment magazines on the same day Lehman Brothers went down and the stock market crashed. The focus of the conference quickly became the economic downturn, comfort food, and the fact that people would focus on more grocery shopping and less time in restaurants. That was the day that Campbell’s Soup was the only stock that went up in value. The buzz around the room was that we, as a food industry, are not very fast or agile to respond to these fast-paced trends.


I still worry. How far has the industry come along? Well, a little bit. To a large degree, many consumer food companies still have not made much progress. Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span. While you might have had longevity of three to six to 12 months with a particular type of food, is that collapsing now? We’re no longer in a world in which we can sit back and have a one-year planning cycle.


Think big, start small, scale fast. If you think big and look five years out—you’re, say, an olive oil company—the bottle is going to be intelligent. It’s probably going to have a chip built into it. You’ll 
probably have some type of relationship, either direct or indirect, with the consumer. That’s a given.


The consumer might have liked the company on Facebook—maybe there was a very effective ad on Facebook and they have agreed to share their information. That establishes the relationship. When [the consumer] walks into the store, their mobile device has that 
relationship embedded in it and the product with the active 
packaging chip in it recognizes that they’re near and starts running a commercial on an LED screen while they’re walking into the store. It might say something such as, “You’ve liked this before, so here’s a coupon that we’ll zip to your mobile device.”

That kind of freaks me out.

I’m 56 and that kind of freaks me out, too. My son—he’s 20—is in a different world. He views contractual relationships in a very 
different way. Five years, 10 years from now, he’s going to have more of a budget for spending, and will he accept that idea of zipping a coupon to him? I think he will.

There’s a stat I dragged out years ago—the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Think about that. You have very little time to grab their attention, so you’ve got to experiment quickly with new ways of putting [your product] in front of them.

Brandon Fox is the food and drink editor of Style Weekly in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has also appeared in The Local Palate and the Washington Post.

“Daddy, is that from the olden days?” That’s a question I would often get from my sons when they were small — around 3 or 5 or 7 years old. (They’re 16 and 18 now…)

"Is that a thing from the olden days, daddy?"

Way back in 2003 or so, I wrote an article around their unique view on the world.

I called it “10 Things from the Olden Days.”

Today, August 2011, I’m getting a lot of media calls around the theme of innovation and the pace of change in the world; I think it is all part of the story angle having to do with Steve Job’s retirement, and the blistering pace of innovation that has existed at Apple.

I mentioned this article in one talk moments ago with a reporter, and realized that it might be a good thing to repost the article in full.

So in that spirit, I’ll repost the article.

10 Things My Kids Think Are From the Olden Days
by Jim Carroll, October 2003
One of the most important roles for any executive today is ensuring that the organization is strategically positioned to deal with relentless, ongoing change.

Everyone is faced with rapidly evolving business models, new and unique customer demands, heightened competition, rapid product development and even faster product obsolescence, and increasing career specialization, not to mention dramatic rates of knowledge growth. It is important to be cognizant of the potential impact of all of these trends, in order to clearly assess how an organization should be responding to change.

It is important that you don’t become complacent about the rate of change that envelopes us today. That’s why it can be very useful to have a barometer that helps to measure the rate of change.

In my case, I track what my two boys – aged 8 and 10 – happen to think about the world around them. Their world is a very different one, in that there are a number of things that we take for granted that already to them, are “things from the olden days.”

  • 35mm film.

The other day, I headed out to a local photofinishing store with a Compact Flash digital camera card in my hand, in order to get a variety of digtal picures printed. “Where are you going with the film, daddy?” asked one. Think

….they’ve grown up in a world of pixels, not acetate.

Which made me wonder, did they know what “real film” looked like? Not at all – since I’ve been doing digital photography since 1996, they’ve grown up in a world of pixels, not acetate.

One day, I grabbed some negatives from an old set of photographs, and showed it to them. They were fascinated, but wondered how you got that thing into a computer in order to see the picture.

  • CD’s.

In my home, there are 12,000 (legally acquired) songs on various servers in the basement. Music is pulled through the home network and played through a “digital audio receiver,” a computer-like entertainment device that will be common in homes five years out.

That’s why my son commented to his buddy a few years ago, when he was visiting, that he had “some of those things from the olden days,” referring, of course, to CD’s. Since I converted all of my music back in 1997 to digital format, the CD’s have sat in various boxes, packed away, simply a form of backup.

A few months back, I showed them some of my old LP records. That really freaked them out.

  • Airplane tickets.

I’m serious! We travel a lot, and we’ve been using e-tickets for as long as they can remember having memories.

I had a recent trip that involved an honest to goodness paper ticket, and they thought the red and green carbon paper was really neat. They wondered if they could do some type of art project with it, while I had to patiently explain that it was worth a lot of money, and that we shouldn’t fool with it.

  • TV Guides.

Saturday mornings in our home are “cartoon mornings.” It is the only day of the week that my wife Christa and I will let them “veg-out” for a few hours and watch their favorite shows.

I came down one Saturday morning, only to find both sons with very sad expressions.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “There’s no data, daddy” said one. “No what?” I asked? He pressed the button for the “electronic program guide” on the TV – we have digital cable – and all the boxes showed the description, “no data.” I guess there must have been some type of hiccup in the system.

I went to the front door, grabbed the newspaper, took out the tv listing section, and said, “here, I’ll show you how we did it in the olden days.”

They weren’t impressed.
  • Analog clocks.

Call these kids digital or what! We were fortunate enough to be out of town when the Great Northeast Power Failure of 2003 occurred, vacationing in Phoenix. But both boys were very curious as to what the power outage would mean and curious about its effects.

“How do people go to sleep?” one asked. That was a new one – we weren’t quite sure what they meant. Until we realized that both of them have grown up with a digital clock beside their bed — if they wake up at night, they check the time, and know it is time to go back to sleep.

We’ve learned that they can’t even sleep without one.

  • TV’s with knobs.

One day, I mentioned that we didn’t have such devices in the “olden days.” “How did people change the channel?” they innocently asked.

I realized that they had no concept that back then – what, twenty years ago at most? – that most people actually had to get up off the couch to change the channel.

The thought seemed completely foreign to them!

  • Store clerks who punch in prices.

When my boys were 2 and 4, they use to play grocery store checkout. One would hand over the purchases, while the other would run the scanner and go “beep.”

They’ve grown up in a world of bar codes, and it is a rarity when they see someone using an actual cash register where you type in the numbers.

  • Portable vacuum cleaners.

“What’s that?” the eldest asked the day we were moving into our ski cottage, pointing at our old portable vacuum cleaner. We’ve had a built-in vacuum system for almost a decade, and so he was mystified as to the nature of the device in front of him.

They watched in awe as we used it the first time, particularly as we pulled it around bumping into walls and doors. One observed that it was kind of a “dumb design,” in that it seemed to do more damage then good.

  • Analog thermometers.

For year, as soon as we saw the bare hint of a fever, we’d quickly measure their temperature with a fancy digital thermometer. Which is why when they saw an old-fashioned, mercury glass thermometer at their grandparents house they were fascinated.

How was it used, they wondered. Better yet, did it go beep when it was finished?

  • A sky without the Space Station.

Ever since they can remember, they’ve gone into our backyard at dusk on clear evenings, watching for the International Space Station and various satellites. They know that mommy and daddy will tell them precisely where to look, at what time, and in what direction the station or satellite will be traversing overhead.

That’s because they’ve grown up with a Web site called Heavens-Above, which will tell you the exact details, for any particular point on earth, where you can easily observe such orbiting wonders.

To them, this is a normal and expected part of life—to me, it is fascinating that a system has evolved that lets me discover such magic.

What does all of this mean?

The interesting thing is that each one of these examples, when examined in the larger sense, involves some type of sweeping industry, product or corporate change, and hence dramatic change upon the careers of hundreds of thousands of people.

In but a few years, the world has changed to a sufficient degree that my boys are growing up in a world that is dramatically different, even from that which existed five years ago.

I remain convinced that the rate of change is only going to increase, and that preparing people to cope with change is one of the most important skills we need to provide.

Ogden Nash once observed that “progress is great, but its gone on far too long.”

That might be a worthy sentiment for some, but those who think like that are ill-equipped to cope in a world of tomorrow that will continue to be unlike anything we know today.




It’s been a whirlwind of activity over the last two months, with about 20 major keynotes under my belt.

One of these was a corporate event for a food company with $7 billion in revenue and 24,000 employees ; my talk was on the key food industry trends of today that should be driving innovation from a marketing, product development and branding perspective.

Jim Carroll on stage at the Readers Digest Food and Entertainment Group Summit, in front of several hundred food and consumer product executives, advertising agencies, grocery and retail organizations and publishers of the world's most popular food magazines, speaking to the trends driving the food industry today, .

This is one of many events I do for food and consumer product clients – my global client list includes high profile keynotes or leadership meetings for the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Division (the publisher of such innovative magazines as Everyday with Rachel Ray), the Produce Marketing Association Annual Fresh Summit, HJ Heinz, Nestle , FMC FoodTechnologies, Burger King, Yum! Brands and many more.

I was the keynote speaker for a meeting of their top 250 marketing executives; my mandate was to focus on how to innovate around the trends that are today impacting the food industry today, with a particular focus on consumer behaviour.

Below are a few of the many trends that I spoke about. I took on an extensive amount of research for this keynote, which is typical of how I approach these events.

In effect, I built my keynote around the theme “….these are the trends that will drive your brands……”, and from that, they could best learn how to change and innovate with their branding and marketing message.

1. Biggest trend: We are witnessing a changing relationship with food

My main observation is that we live in a period of time that sees consumers interacting with food, the purchasing of food, and the consumption of food in new and different ways.

An article, Observer Food Monthly in the Guardian Newspaper, 15 May 2011 caught this sentiment perfectly:

  • “… never before has our culture been so engaged in discussing and experimenting with and agonizing over and fantasizing about and plain enjoying what is on the end of our forks”

Consider what is happening:

  • we have a new form of interaction when purchasing food. Consider the number of iPhone apps by which we can research calorie counts, nutrition facts and other information while in the grocery store.
  • we have new influencers in how we make these in-store food decisions. Think about the Monterrey Aquarium Seafood Watch iPhone app, which will give you background that can help you with your ethical food decisions.
  • a change in how we manage our food intake. iPhone and Web sites apps such as Lose It, which allow us to track our food consumption on a calorie-by-calorie, product by product basis.
  • a change in food packaging: ““…..interactive packaging, intelligent and active packaging, multi-sensory packaging, edible packaging … packaging as mini-billboards…” as noted by the research firm Reportlinker. Paackaging is going from passive to active, and is becoming more than just the vehicle for branding – increasingly, it is defining our relationship with the food.
  • a change in our food relationships. Consider the impact of food traceability based on DNA. “Tonning’s restaurant is among more than 11,000 that Richmond-based food distributor Performance Food Group is supplying with DNA-traceable beef as an added value for customers of its premium Braveheart brand. The company, which has annual revenues of about $11 billion, said it is among the first distributors to use the technology.” Where’s the beef, Iowa Press Citizen, May 2011
  • A more direct involvement with the ethics of food. “Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide.” Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011
  • and very significant transitional trends. Whole grains are the hottest trend in sliced bread, with whole wheat edging out soft white bread in total sales for the first time……… The whole-grain craze has, after all, raised the bar on what consumers are willing to pay for bread that’s perceived as healthy…..” Grains gain ground; Focus on healthy eating helps wheat surpass white in sliced bread sales 1 August 2010, Chicago Tribune

All in all, these are pretty significant, systemic, long term transformative trends that will have a major impact through the next 5-10 years. Smart food companies will recognize that the very nature of our relationship with food is changing and will innovative around that reality. Massive opportunities for innovative thinking exist here!

2. A need to respond to faster consumer preference/taste change

I’ve long been pointing out that consumer preference is changing faster when it comes to food, and that leads to the rapid emergence of new opportunity, or the rapid decline of existing product lines. A few of my observations:

  • behavioural change and food as fashion! Fresh-cut snack food grew from $6.8 billion in to $10.5 billion in one year. Notes one publication: “Snacks are like a fashion category…..People want a change. it’s going to be short-lived–maybe a quarter, maybe six months, then changed out” Private Label Buyer, May 2010.
  • We spend more of our day with our food – it’s not just breakfast, lunch and dinner anymore. Canadian consumers are snacking more frequently. Snacks were 24% of all “meals” consumed by 2010. Fruit leads in the category, and healthy snacks are driving growth – the top 7 snacks include yogurt and granola bars.
  • Food categories can explode in growth over night. US Greek Yogurt sales grew from $33million in 2007 to $469 million today!

The key point with all of these trends is that it reflects our busy, compressed lives — smart food companies will continue to learn how to innovate within that reality with new products, aligning themselves to health concerns, and other trends.

3. The impact of business model change and social networks on food and taste trends

Business model change with pop-up restaurants drives the more rapid emergence of new exotic tastes and flavors!

Clearly, massive connectivity is coming to influence the growth of new foods, brands, tastes, patterns.

I spoke, for example, how bacon has quickly become so trendy as something used to enhance countless recipes. It can be traced right back to an effective social networking campaign.

  • “If there’s one food trend that illustrates how top-down and grassroots phenomena combine it might be bacon….. in southern California about six years ago, Rocco Loosbrock paired peppered bacon with Syrah wine at a tasting….”swine and wine…..!” The mysteries of food trends: How bacon got its sizzle, Associated Press Newswires, March 2011
Social networks are also lining up with a change in business models in the restaurant sector, which helps to drive faster change in consumer taste trends…..
  • In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of pop-up restaurants and “Eat St” food – street food!
  • what is happening here is a lower barrier to entry in terms of new restaurant start up cost — more people can get out and start out a restaurant as “street food”, and experiment with new, bold, and exotic tastes and flavors
  • there’s also a very big trend underway that links restaurants and markets together in one location. Go to the restaurant, like the food and want to cook it at home next time? Visit the market in the same building, and buy the exact ingredients for that exact recipe. We call these Resto 2.0’s : for example, Murray’s Market in Ottawa, based on locally farmed food, “….sells cheeses, meats, produce and house-made foodstuffs, providing customers with many of the same raw ingredients they use as their restaurant next door.” Globe & Mail, June 1, 2011
  • all of these trends involve a new breed of restaurateur / entrepreneur;  they’ve learned to link these efforts with very effective social network campaigns. The result is that we now have even faster emergence of new taste trends. Smart food companies will learn how to innovate around the sheer velocity of what is occurring here – ‘faster is the new fast!’

My key point? Innovation is all about time to market … and the brand message needs to match the new speed metric…

4. A new consumer volatility

Back in 2009, I keynote global events for both Burger King and Yum! Brands. One of the major points in both keynotes was the consumer and public health concerns would come to drive more of a focus on a healthier diet; hence, the need for more aggressive innovation around a balanced menu that offered up more healthier choices.

Since then, looking back, it looks like one chain took the message to heart, and the other didn’t. Can you guess which ones?

What’s happened since then? Restaurant chains — and by extension, food companies — are discovering that consumer activity has become very volatile. They might talk of the need to go out and eat healthier, but then go out and continue to buy big, fat juicy cheeseburgers.

But then the news continues to hammer home the cold realities of North American food lifestyles, and the impact of childhood obesity.

  • over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in North America have tripled
  • 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese
  • 1/3 of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives
  • many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma

Add to that new messages from Michelle Obama, Jamie Kennedy and other influencers around this debate — and all of a sudden, behaviour begins to change faster than people expect. Consider comments in the article Dining chains shape up menus ;Customers place low-cal orders now, 13 April 2011, USA Today

  • :Something odd is afoot in restaurants where Americans have typically gone to gorge: healthier grub. This nutritional U-turn is taking place at some of the unlikeliest of eateries, including Denny’s, IHOP, Friendly’s, Sizzler and even at the nation’s biggest casual dining chain, Applebee’s, where the numbers are eye-popping.
  • “For the first two months of 2011, the top-selling entree at Applebee’s wasn’t a gloppy burger or flashy fajita plate. It was a sirloin and shrimp entree from the chain’s diet menu. This marks the first time that a low-calorie item ever ranked as the chain’s best seller for a single month — let alone two in a row.
  • “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s.
  • “When Applebee’s launched the under-550-calorie menu in 2010, it didn’t immediately take off, says Archer. But after some tweaks, it caught fire early this year. It now accounts for up to 8% of sales”

8 percent of sales! For healthy options! The key innovation opportunity is to keep innovating with food and taste trends around trends such as health, local, regional. The consumer is volatile, and will change faster than ever before.

Key marketing and branding innovation points?

  • consumer behaviour is now more unpredictable than ever before!
  • sudden, dramatic shifts driven by sudden external influences or other pressures are the new reality
  • it’s easy to abandon marketing momentum / commitment due to slowness of trend (i.e. healthy lifestyle – consumers say one thing, and do another!)
  • yet success from ability to quickly rejig marketing message based on trend spikes – speed matters!

And  so branding innovation is … sticking to the message behind the key trends, even if the trends unfold at a curious and unpredictable pace….

I spoke about many other trends within the keynote, particularly the impact of mobile marketing and moving into hyper-nice marketing. I’ll cover more of that later.

This is typical of the type of unique research I often do for a keynote. If you are interested in bringing me in to a leadership meeting at your corporate organization, feel free to give me a call!

Here’s an article that I wrote for Food Manufacturing on trends in the consumer, food and packaging sector.

I spend a huge amount of my time as a keynote speaker at countless conferences and events, many of them within and to the food, packaging, retail and restaurant sector. I also spend quite a bit of time with smaller, strategy-oriented leadership session designed around the theme of ‘how to innovate in a high velocity economy.’

And I do know that while volatility rocks the economy, some fundamental truths about that velocity remain: the food, packaging and retail industries continue to be subject to dramatic rates of change–and innovative organizations succeed by mastering the pace of this new high-velocity economy.

Think about what is going on out there: customer mindset has become increasingly difficult to capture as we become a society with massive attention deficits–the Twitter era is having a profound impact on brand image. Marketing and advertising dollars are fleeing traditional media and moving online at a pace that surprises even the more hard-core technology-evangelists. Faster innovation means faster in-store format change. New digital signage technologies and other innovations march forward at a furious pace, providing yet another new influencer in the retail space.

And in the midst of all this change, business models are subject to upheaval due to economic turmoil, commoditization of product and the rapid emergence of new competitors.

It’s a fast paced world–and that’s why cutting-edge organizations are focused on key leadership strategies that provide for a fast-paced future. So what should you do to confront the “big trends” that have so much velocity–and what you should be doing right now?

I approached this very question as the opening keynote speaker for an audience of 5,000 at a recent Las Vegas event. The client organization certainly finds itself in the midst of high-velocity change. There are fast paced trends in terms of new branding challenges and marketing methodologies (think Web 2.0), consumer behavior, and many other issues. Yet, there are tremendous opportunities for growth through innovation.

My keynote addressed a variety of trends that impact every aspect of the food, packaging and retail sector today. For example, to be a leading edge innovator, you must confront and have a strategy that deals with a variety of fast-paced trends:

  • Rapid emergence of new methods of customer interaction. For example, in the next few years, we will likely see the emergence of contact-less payment technology, as our credit card infrastructure migrates to Blackberry, iPhone, and smart phones. This presents new opportunities in terms of customer contact.
  • New methods of brand and product promotion. Organizations must be able to scale to meet the demands of new intelligent infrastructure, and that will require a tremendous amount of innovation. Consider text messaging: technologies that provide for the remote retrieval of mobile coupon offers will define the future of brand interaction. With 147 million people already interacting globally on social networks via their mobile phone–and up to 1 billion in but five years–there are tremendous opportunities for new methods of achieving brand and product awareness.
  • Rapid change in consumer choice. Take the issue of health concerns and balanced diet. Fresh-cut snack foods grew from $6.8 billion in to $10.5 billion in a short time, according to the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association. Innovation comes from changing product mix to keep up with fast-changing consumers.
  • Rapidly emerging new menus and taste trends. It’s estimated that new flavors now move from upscale kitchens to chain restaurants in 12 months, compared to 36 months 5 years ago. This means that faster innovation is not a luxury–it’s a necessity. Change faster, and you’ll yeild new growth-based products.
  • Fast emerging issues involving green strategies. The Grille Zone, a restaurant chain in Boston, generates about 15 pounds of waste per restaurant, compared to an industry average of 275 pounds. The Green Restaurant Association took 14 years to go to 90 restaurants; it’s now at close to 1,000, with thousands more going through the certification program. Growth can come from evolving a brand so that it matches the social desires of the customer base.

What I stress at events like this is that organizations need to realize that innovation isn’t just about “big innovation”–the launch of new products and services. There’s also the issue of “fast innovation”–in which success is defined by the ability of the organization to respond to rapidly changing products, markets, business models, economic trends, competitive moves, consumer trends and just about everything else.

Innovation today is moving from more than just “products” to process, structure, capability, and speed.

Here’s the thing: in my keynotes, I focus on growth opportunities. There are enough people out there who are so focused on the doom and gloom of the economy, that they lose sight of the fact that if they focus on fast innovation–and keeping up with rapid trends–they can discover all kinds of new ways to grow the business.

Faster is the new fast. Think growth. Think innovation.

In the food industry — it’s all faster.

A faster focus on ‘fresh’ food. New taste trends happen faster. There’s faster innovation with ethical packaging.

And so it’s all about time to market. Challenge yourself to think and act differently, when the food industry continues to speed up, and the process of innovation undergoes a deep transformational change.

2009LeadershipGrowth.jpgI was interviewed some time last month by – this was related to their discovery of the keynote I did for the Readers Digest / EveryDay with Rachel Ray team food industry summit in New York last fall.

They ran a short article, “March of the New Machines: The Future of Food Processing” — and ran my comment on what I’ve seen in terms of CEO’s who have relentless focus on growth. Many of my recent keynotes — several in Las Vegas, Austin, Miami and New York — have been focused on how to maintain  growth strategies during an economic contraction.

Here’s an extract from the interview. Some good food for thought on the need to be RELENTLESS on the future and opportunities.

In a tough economy like this, it’s time to hold the line on spending and to be especially cautious of leading-edge technology. Right?

History’s full of companies that leapt ahead of competitors by increasing spending, especially on innovation, during down times. Jim Carroll, author and innovation consultant, recalled a speaking engagement in which he followed the CEO of a global restaurant chain, who spoke for a brief but powerful 20 minutes.

“For the first minute, he spoke about the global economy and the meltdown. He then spent the next 19 minutes identifying eight growth opportunities and how this organization could do great things if they relentlessly obsessed over them.

“How cool is that?” asks Carroll. “All these other companies are retrenching, pulling back, and here’s a guy who’s saying to his team, ‘Let’s focus on growth.’ ”

He says growth plans and strategic if judicious spending is mandatory for managing during a downturn. Companies that aren’t paralyzed by total spending freezes can get the jump on those competitors who are. And when the economy is back on track a year or whatever from now, Carroll says only then will we be able to point to companies and say which ones lagged and failed and which ones “took risks and did great things.

The article at itself takes a look at the technologies, production platforms, processes, ideas and methodologies which can provide for innovation in terms of market growth, product development, cost management and other areas. There’s no shortage of opportunity for innovation in the food and consumer product sector – or any other industry.

What is missing right now for many organizations is the COURAGE TO TAKE RISKS and INVEST!

Innovators focus on the future, they focus on growth, and they focus their team on opportunity. That’s a key message, and you’d do well to obsess over it.

Think growth!


  • Read March of the New Machines: The Future of Food Processing
  • Read the RDA Food & Entertainings Consumer Food Symposium summary (PDF)
10 Rules for Working at Home
November 7th, 2007

In the area where I live, the school system has an annual “take your kid to work day” for Grade 9’s. Today was the day for my eldest son — and since I’ve been working at home for 18 years, I suggested it might not be a good idea to have him hanging around here for the day watching TV!

So we sent him off to work with the local grocery store……

18 years is a long time in a home office. Back in 2003, I wrote an article, “10 Rules for Working At Home.” Here’s the short list; you can also link to the full article.

  1. Make a daily plan, set a commitment. You’ve got a job like anyone else, and quite simply, you have to get things done.
  2. Make space. Your home office has to be just that — an office. … do things to ensure that your office is “someplace separate.”
  3. Don’t feel guilt Don’t feel bad if you take some private time here and there! It’s part of the balance…
  4. Set boundaries. Learn to shut the door. That’s got to be the most important thing when it comes to developing a healthy separation between your work day and your home life.
  5. Kick back. In your home office, you’ll have a desk. That doesn’t mean you have to do all of your work there!
  6. Educate your coworkers. Working at home means that you are in the vanguard of a workplace revolution.
  7. Talk to your mailman. When you work at home, you’ve got to make sure that you replace water-cooler chit-chat with something else. Get out and talk to people!
  8. Appreciate the rewards! Love your job! Realize that you’ve got the best of both worlds — you’ve got a great career, and you get to spend time with your family.
  9. Plant flowers outside your window and buy a birdfeeder. Take the time to make a home office that will drive you to results, and that will spur you on to enjoy your work!
  10. Recognize that you get a lot more done. That’s a simple truth.
  11. Have a laugh. Did we say a list of 10? I have 11!

  • read the full article, 10 Rules for Working at Home

There are two types of people in the world — those who view the future with fear, worry and concern — and the rest of the people who look at the future as an opportunity.

The latter group are the innovators; the former group will do everything they can do dismiss the idea of doing anything differently. (They use the “innovation killer phrases” which I often use on stage…..)

I just grabbed a quick video clip from a talk I did for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Chamber of Commerce earlier this fall (which drew a standing room only crowd of 800 people), in which I’m talking about the attitudes of farmers towards the future. I spent a bit of time talking about the 10 Big Trends for Agriculture, and put into perspective that we really need to focus on the opportunity of the upside.

It might be worth a watch, because it really puts these two camps into perspective.

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