Autor: William Lyons Fuente:

MEN are becoming more like women, children want to be teenagers, and we are all spending more time in our homes - these are three of the ten "mega-trends" that are shaping the future of our consumer society.

According to market analysts Datamonitor, the future of how and what we buy will be shaped by this series of shifting consumer values.

In a new report, Global Consumer Trends, the key influences are revealed. These range from "age complexity" - adults seeking a teenage twist; and "gender complexity" - men becoming more feminised; to the increasing desire for "sensory experiences".

Gavin Humphries, the author of the study, said that a "mega-trend" is when a trend hits the mass market across a number of different industry sectors.

He said: "From the evidence we have collected, the product will not be successful unless it adheres to at least two of these mega-trends.

"Manufacturers and retailers must face up to the fact that the days of conjuring up new products without basing them on these consumer mega-trends are numbered.

"Now, it is changing values and attitudes calling the shots. To be successful, a product or service will have to be founded on at least one and ideally several of these mega-trends."

1 Age complexity
Children are becoming teenagers before reaching their teens. Today’s 12-year-old is more likely to think he or she is 17, and manufacturers are developing children’s products with "cool teen" attributes. To confuse matters, adults are behaving more like teenagers, playing computer games, reading "kidult" literature and wearing "young" clothes.

2 Gender complexity
Traditional distinctions between men and women are becoming blurred. Women have moved into many traditionally "male" employment areas and are earning more. There are also more women entering tertiary education, and they are marrying later or staying single. Women’s drinking habits have radically changed too. In the UK, their consumption of alcohol had increased by almost 27 per cent between 1998 and 2003.

At the same time, men are becoming more feminised as they take an active role in parenting, become more fashion-oriented and develop beauty regimes, including opting for plastic surgery.

3 Lifestage complexity
There’s been a sharp decline in the number of people with a family and rapid growth in people living alone, not getting married or not having children. Next year, there will be 21 million (14 per cent) fewer nuclear families in western Europe than in 1995.

4 Income complexity
We are curbing our spending in one area so we can splurge in others. This will mean food and drink manufacturers having to supply many people’s everyday purchases through the growing discount grocery channel. At the same time, British consumers spent a total of £920 million on premium treats and comfort foods in 2003. Datamonitor forecasts that consumers’ expenditure on premium indulgence will increase by 27 per cent, to £1.2 billion in 2008.

5 Individualism
We want ever more personalisation, in the way we live (46 million people now live alone in Europe), the marketing we receive ("Your M&S") and those adverts about "your inner self". Food and drink companies have responded with customised labels and the offer of any number of types of coffee - "I’ll have the frappacappamochacino".

6 Homing
Thanks to DIY and new gadgetry, consumers are spending more money on (and time in) their homes. This mega-trend has brought us a new vocabulary - downsizing, cocooning, pampering and everyday treating - and any number of new TV programmes.

7 Connectivity
We are now more connected through technology. But this mega-trend also encapsulates many people’s increased desire for belonging at the community, national and even global levels. It is evident in the success of schemes such as Walkers "Books for Schools" and Fair Trade products.

Manufacturers are also tapping into the idea of friendship with more sharable products (Pringles with Trivial Pursuit questions printed on them) and innovations such as Molson Twin Label beer bottle labels that get people talking and help to break the ice at parties.

8 Sensory experiences
We are all becoming more tolerant of risk and change and are actively seeking out more intense experiences. Hence the increase in extreme sports and short, busy weekend breaks. In our everyday lives, consumers are more prepared to experiment with new products, discover authentic ethnic foods and try intense flavours such as sour soft drinks, peppery liqueurs and chocolate-flavoured water.

9 Convenience
As the pace of life gets faster still, there will be more multi-tasking, "grazing" - at your desk and on-the-move consumption and other "quick fixes". UK consumers are Europe’s biggest on-the-go eaters and drinkers. Already on the horizon are products such as self-heating cans and fast-chilling drinks.

10 Health
The report shows that almost three-quarters of Europeans are now more concerned about their health and well-being compared with a year ago. People are putting greater value on healthiness such that sales of healthy, de-stressing and self-medicating products are booming. UK consumers are among the biggest spenders on functional foods and drinks in Europe, spending on average £110 a year each. Over the past five years, the number of functional food and drinks consumed in the UK has more than doubled and is set to reach five million by 2007. But for manufacturers, the biggest prizes will be found in products that cross over trends: health on-the-go such as salad pots or healthy indulgences such as Danone’s Actimel and Yakult bio-drinks.
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