An Update on Global Consumer Trends of 2009

It’s not going to be all work and no play for today’s consumer, according to Mintel.  Even as the economy drags people down financially and emotionally, this market research firm predicts a continued focus on enjoyment and life fulfillment.  While people around the world still feel pessimistic, Mintel sees them discovering ways to transform their lifestyles and lighten the mood. 

Here’s a look at Mintel’s five global consumer trends for 2009:

Trust is a paramount concern in 2009 as banks, food manufacturers and government officials suffer from losing people’s confidence.  In the U.S., 66% of adults say they have less trust in financial services companies because of recent economic developments.  Food companies are at risk too; 60% of Americans worry about food safety.

When the financial bottom dropped out last year, already-choosy consumers found another reason to grasp for control:  security.  A Mintel survey of U.S. affluent adults found that two in five intend to permanently spend less and decrease their reliance on credit cards, thus increasing control over their finances.   “We see new values taking hold as people adapt to today’s tighter economy,” said Harry Foster, global analyst at Mintel. “Conservative and pragmatic are in, excess is out.  Consumers feel pessimistic about the future, so they’re taking cautious steps to ensure their safety and happiness now.”fling1

Despite negative feelings about the economy and pressure to cut back, people still want to enjoy themselves.  In the U.S., three in five people say they traveled domestically in the past year, but to save money, more travelers visit friends or family, spend time looking for travel bargains or choose cheap transportation.  Additionally, helping people achieve the balance between necessity and pleasure, food manufacturers have been releasing quirky, light-hearted new products.  Today, playfulness offers people a way to escape, engage and build relationships with brands.

In work and play alike, consumers around the world continue to seek simplicity.  More than two-thirds of Americans told Mintel they’ve been simplifying their lives over the past 6 months, while nearly 9 in 10 think there is “too much emphasis on material things in our society.”  Food manufacturers have followed suit, launching more products that appease people’s desire for clear functionality, clean ingredient labels and simple packaging.  Restaurants have jumped on this trend by offering all-inclusive meal deals that tell people exactly what they’ll get for their money.

Trading down, up and over 
Trying to save where they can, consumers continue trading down across spending opportunities.  Eight in 10 Americans say they’re cooking at home more now, while 52% admit to spending less at restaurants this year compared to last.  With so much trading down, however, many consumers also trade up in some instances to reward themselves.  Small luxuries like fine chocolate are a common treat, while other shoppers purchase gourmet food at the grocery store because it’s still more affordable than eating out.

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