Trend Teaser Inaugural edition: Upcycling

A game changer for me in my career as an innovator was when I moved from the Food industry into the Beauty industry. While CPG, and the Food industry specifically, sets the standard for using consumer research to assess new product market viability and business drivers, Trends Rule in the Beauty space.

Newness is everything. The higher volume, faster pace, and diversity of channels for innovation forced me to quickly understand the critical importance of staying on top of trends—macro, micro and everything in between. Over the last 10+ years, disciplined trend mining has become a core element in my approach to diagnosing business challenges and opportunities for my clients. I view the evolution and expansion of trends as holding up a mirror to our culture, reflecting how lifestyles, attitudes and expectations for products, brands and society both differ and remain the same across generations and eras.

With that context, I am excited to introduce my Trend Teaser Newsletter series. With each edition, I’ll showcase a key trend I find intriguing within the industries and categories of focus for my company, EMC Strategy, which all have some relation to Wellness. I’ll always offer 3 examples:

  1.  Spot On– A well-executed example of a trend I think is “sticky”
  2. Missed the Mark – In my humble opinion, a poor example of tapping that same trend
  3. What the… – A likely well-intentioned example of the trend that I don’t understand or don’t see gaining traction

In this edition, the trend of focus is UPCYCLING, which is defined as “the reuse of discarded objects or materials in such aa way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original”. The evolution of this trend is making Recycling look old school, and is opening up fascinating new ways for brands to demonstrate their sustainability cred. Here are my hot takes on three upcycling examples:

Spot On: Nivea’s Naturally Good Energizing Face Cream  

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A first for German skincare brand Nivea is its recent launch of their Naturally Good Energizing Face Cream that incorporates recycled coffee grounds into the formula. Through its partnership with Kaffe Bueno, a company that transforms coffee grounds from the hospitality industry that would otherwise have gone to landfills into cosmetic actives, Nivea is giving these coffee grounds a second life. Using antioxidant rich coffee in their formula helps support cream’s skin calming and protection benefits.

It’s estimated that 1 kilogram of coffee generates 1.2 kilograms of waste—which adds up to HUGE potential impact given how much coffee is consumed globally. If not properly composted, coffee grounds end up in landfills and release harmful methane gas as they decompose. I see Nivea’s Naturally Good as a great example of a heritage brand maintaining relevance while also taking a step to support a more circular economy.

Missed the Mark: MUSH Foods 50 CUT

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Israeli company Mush Foods, part of the Strauss Group Kitchen FoodTech Hub, has launched their 50CUT mycelium protein ingredient solution with the intent to reduce the animal protein content in meat products by 50%. They’ve combined the nutrient-rich roots from 3 types of mushrooms in its mycelium protein blend which is intended to be blended with conventional beef for a range of “meat hybrids. Mush is promoting 50CUT as a satisfying hybrid meat for carnivores and flexitarians who don’t want to compromise on taste, texture, or nutrition.

While the company should certainly be commended for trying to play a part in the mandate to decrease our meat consumption, this example does not land for me because it looks pretty unappealing, and because I don’t quite understand the point of a meat hybrid. In my opinion, you are either going plant based, or you’re not!

What the…: Off the Menu Ceramics 

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Emerging designer Carly Breame has launched a range of upcycled seafood plates titled ‘Off the Menu.’. Breame collaborated with British seafood restaurant Angela’s in the seaside town of Margate, where the food scraps for the ceramic tableware items were sourced. The starter dish, Seafood and Wine, is made using oyster, mussel and scallop shells and crushed wine bottle glass for the glazing. The Fish and Chips main plate is made with fish bone ash and potato peelings for the glazing, and the ceramic Fruit Salad desert bowl glaze is made from orange peel, banana peel and mint stalks.

The intent of Off the Menu to increase awareness of food waste, material usability and the value of upcycling, is certainly admirable, as is the goal of supporting localism. The introduction also strikes me as a PR grab to promote a young artist’s emerging career. And…who’s with me… eating off a plate made from the ash of fish bones and potato peels is less than appetizing. But A for effort!

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