(Still) Made Here

Trendwatching_logoTrendwatching.com June/ July Breifing

Two mega-trends of our time, the greening of consumption and the
proliferation of alternative status symbols, hold the promise of vast
new riches for real-world entrepreneurs, while wreaking havoc on those
that lag behind. Which brings us to the (STILL) MADE HERE trend: the
comeback of all things local, all things with a sense of place, and how
they’re surfacing in a world dominated by globalization.

“(STILL) MADE HERE encompasses new and enduring
manufacturers and purveyors of the local. In a world that is seemingly
ruled by globalization, mass production and ‘cheapest of the cheapest’,
a growing number of consumers are seeking out the local, and thereby
the authentic, the storied, the eco-friendly and the obscure.”

         

In
this briefing, we’ll focus on three big drivers behind this trend —
social responsibility, status and support. There are more, but we’ll
save those for a future update. Oh, and don’t worry, we’re not going to
wax on for hours and hours about farmers’ markets 😉

         

Now, let’s start with everyone’s favorite 800-pound gorilla: social responsibility, from eco to ethics.

1. Eco and ethics

         

         

 

         

Global vs. local

THE story of 2006, 2007, 2008 and many years to come? Consumers,
governments and business leaders are finally feeling the pressure to
confront and act upon the fact that unbridled production and
consumption comes with mounting pollution and at a significant
human/animal/earth cost. Now, since virtually every think tank, trend
firm, eco-blog, former US presidential candidate and oil company has
chimed in on the issue, we’ll refrain from rehashing endless studies
and scenarios on the globe’s future. Instead, we’ll focus on one
sub-trend — locality — that is still emerging and as such can offer
brands additional inspiration to come up with new goods, services and
experiences that are part of the solution, not the problem.
         

Let’s start with ‘eco’. Now that carbon footprinting has become a household term in mature consumer societies, expect consumers’ desire to find out about the origins of a product to become a given.
Questions no one ever asked a few years ago will become an integral
part of the purchasing process. How was the product made? By whom? How
did it get to its point of sale? What effects on the environment will
it have after purchasing?
            
Increasingly, this
transparency will pit distant production against local production.
Above all, local production holds the promise of less pollution due to
less transport. And, in prosperous and regulated nations, chances of
inhumane labor practices are smaller, too.

         

A
slew of projects and publications are fanning the current debate on
local versus global production. Not too surprising, it’s the food and
beverage sector — which can be both closest to, and most removed from
nature — that finds itself at the forefront of the eco-meets-local debate, while the apparel industry (sweatshop, anyone?) is feeling the impact of ethics-meets-local more than any other industry.

         

To
stick with our promise to not repeat too much that others have already
effectively investigated, we’ll gladly refer you to the books and
projects below: they all deal with the specifics of how local
consumption may (or may not!) trump more wasteful global activities.
Click on the images to go to the relevant web pages:

         

 

         

         

 

         

Life story labels

         

Now,
to stick to our usual approach, let’s look at some brands that are
already experimenting with attaching ‘life story labels’ to their
products, satisfying consumers who are ready to spend their dollars,
euros, pounds and yens on whatever does the least harm:
         

         


            UK supermarket Tesco
plans to introduce carbon footprint labels on all 70,000 products it
sells to allow shoppers to compare carbon impacts. Implementation will
take a while: the company is currently investigating how to develop a
“universally accepted and commonly understood” measuring system.

         

 

         

         

Last year, footwear manufacturer Timberland
started placing a "nutritional label" on each shoe box, educating
consumers about the product they are purchasing, including where it was
manufactured, how it was produced and what effect it has on the
environment. Nice touch: messaging inside the box asks customers "what
kind of footprint will you leave?" and provides a call to action for
them after purchase. Hey, it takes two to tango!

         

 

         

         

Dole Organic
lets consumers “travel to the origin of each organic product”. By
typing in a fruit sticker’s three-digit Farm Code on Dole Organic’s
website, customers can read background info, view photos of the farm
and workers and learn more about the origin of Dole products.

         

 

         

         

What works for bananas, works for eggs.  Aptly naming their site wheresyoursfrom,  UK-based Chippindale Foods was the first company to offer customers full egg traceability. Also check out intermediary MyFreshEgg, which aims to be bringing the same services to a host of farms and egg producers.

         

 

         

And the examples keep rolling in:  from Nature and More to Lloyd Maunder West Country to Aceites Borges Olive Oil.

         

The latter gives each bottle of olive oil a Numero de Lote (batch
number), informing customers about the geographic origin of the olives,
the pressing date, oil producer, place of pressing, liters bottled
under the same batch number, date of bottling, degree of acidity,
tasting score and tasting notes.
            
         

         

 

         

         

            Next for these ‘life story’ labels? Integration with ‘supply-chain’ codes like barcodes, QR codes and RFID,
of course. Which will really take flight when, as is already the case
in Japan, millions of consumers have code reading software on their
camera-phones. Which means that infinite amounts of information
(including images and videos) can be ‘attached’ to products, satisfying
even the most seriously INFOLUSTY
consumers. To be continued, though probably not a bad idea to start
mapping out your product life stories strategy as soon as possible?

         
         

         

         

Taking back production

         

Now,
books and labels are fun, but how about setting up entirely new (STILL)
MADE HERE ventures? Expect local companies to take back production
that’s currently based in regions less concerned with eco and ethics.
Some examples:

         
         

         

American Apparel.
The most famous advocate of (STILL) MADE HERE deals with ethical
concerns in a radical way: by manufacturing its garments in… high-cost
LA. American Apparel now operates the country’s largest garment
factory, employs more than 5,000 people and operates 145 retail
locations in 11 countries. Workers are paid (on average) USD 12 an
hour, almost twice as much as California’s minimum wage.

         
         
         

 

         

         

American Apparel isn’t the only brand to do so: NoSweatApparel
calls itself the pioneer of fair trade fashion and footwear, setting
(in their own words) an empowered, unionized workforce as the gold
standard for fair trade clothing.

         

 

         

            

         

And for those of you needing more proof that (STILL) MADE HERE can be profitable and sexy: Ujena offers one of the largest selections of swimwear in the world, yet still  manufactures its products in the United States.

         

 

         

Back to edibles: Dutch start-up Happy Shrimp
is Europe’s first tropical shrimp farm, located in the very
non-tropical port of Rotterdam. Promising fresh (‘superfresh’) shrimp,
aimed at local restaurants, the business is taking on low cost shrimp
farming in Asia. It does so by smartly capitalizing on trends that the
competition may find hard to latch on to.
            
First
of all, Happy Shrimp is thoroughly eco-friendly. Its farm is located
next to a power plant and benefits from a heat-exchange system, using
waste heat that would otherwise be released into the air. Farm waste,
meanwhile, is used in a biological filter bed (many existing shrimp
farms in the southern hemisphere pollute coastal wetlands).
            
Secondly, Happy Shrimp promises demanding consumers that the food on
their plate is safe and unpolluted. An ISO 22,000 system is implemented
throughout the whole process, while the farm is a closed recirculation
system, which means nothing can enter or exit.
            
Thirdly, as the current trend in food and beverage is all about
freshness, with supermarkets increasingly shifting from packed and
canned goods to fresh, if not produced on the premises offerings (STILL
MADE HERE indeed!), Happy Shrimps prides itself on being able to
deliver shrimp to local restaurants within hours after ‘harvesting’,
without freezing or month-long travels on mega-freighters. To feast on
Happy Shrimp, locals will have to wait until the end of this year: the
first baby shrimps arrived at the farm early May, and they’ll be ready
for consumption this Christmas.

         
         

 

         

         

To completely eliminate transit between source and table — and the need for egg traceability  labels — British Omlet
brings hens to consumers’ gardens and fresh eggs to their table every
morning. The company designed a hen kit for urban and suburban gardens,
aimed at first-time chicken owners, families and eco-savvy individuals.
How it works? Omlet supplies organically reared and fully vaccinated
female chickens (no early morning cock-a-doodle-doo), at a cost of GBP
365 (USD 700 / EUR 550). The two-hen service comes complete with an
Eglu, an eye-catching, 21st century version of the henhouse. In its
first three years of business, the company sold 10,500 Eglus and is now
also offering a larger version, the Eglu Cube, capable of housing up to
10 chickens.
             
Ready to brainstorm about the
implications of the eco/ethics angle of (STILL) MADE HERE for your own
brand? Do check out the ‘Opportunities’ section at the end of this
briefing.

         

 

         

2. Story and status

         

         

          Ignoring global production trends: quality made here

         

The
second driver behind the (STILL) MADE HERE trend is using the local
aspect as a story ingredient. Obviously, many of the aforementioned
eco/ethics examples tell a story, too, but the status/story driver
encompasses more than these two angles. In fact, some of the local
stories described below will translate into decidedly eco-unfriendly
behavior, as they turn local heritage into a worldwide selling point,
causing pollution by long-haul transport to customers across the globe.

         

 

         

         

An obvious example of the link between locality and story/status is the
perception of location-specific quality. Just because everything can be
produced everywhere, it doesn’t necessarily mean that (perceived)
quality levels have been globalized, too. Some high-cost regions can
afford to be expensive because of superior skills, rare expertise
and/or a rock-solid brand. Which is why, contrary to earlier
doomsayers, high-end brands like Italian Ermenegildo Zegna (9 factories in Italy), Swiss Rolex or British Vertu
(luxury phones are assembled by hand at the company’s headquarters in
Church Crookham, UK) are manufacturing or assembling in their high-wage
home countries, and not suffering from it.

         

In fact, keeping in mind the story element, this is
what they’re selling, and what they’ve been selling for ages. And
millions of consumers will gladly continue to pay a premium for these
goods as they tell a story of authenticity, of connoisseurship, of the
owner knowing where in the world to source the best of the best for
each product category. To believe in the outsourcing of anything and
everything is to ignore consumers’ desire to spend as much as possible
on the real thing.

         

 

         

         

Since, in a sea of (global) sameness, there aren’t that many ‘real
things’ left, the future of this kind of (STILL) MADE HERE production
looks bright. In fact, millions of newly minted members of the middle
classes in ‘outsource nations’ like China, India, Russia and so on will
not accept anything but Made in Italy, or Made in Switzerland when
going after blueblooded, old world brands.

         

Oh, and
the counterfeiting issue? The ‘product life story’ labels discussed
above, especially advanced ones like RFID chips that have unique
tracking codes for each single item, may just take care of that.
There’s money in heritage and keeping it real!

         

 

         

         

But it’s not just high-end production
that can afford to ignore global production trends: every day sees new,
small, local manufacturers capitalizing on skills and heritage in
innovative ways. Case in point: bicycles. New, local bike brands keep
popping up in cycling-crazy nations like Denmark and the Netherlands,
which are hardly low-cost havens. Yet the combination of
entrepreneurship and the cycling heritage these nations indisputably
have makes for many a (STILL) MADE HERE success, and the fact that
bikes have been manufactured and shipped from Copenhagen or Amsterdam
is the story ingredient that commands a juicy premium elsewhere. To get
inspired, check out the following brands, all of them manufactured
locally and sold globally.

         

trioBikeDe FietsfabriekCargobike.nl  — Jorg & OlifBiomega

         

Jorg
& Olif actually embodies the (STILL) MADE HERE trend with a twist:
the company is Canadian, but sources its utterly old-fashioned heavy,
black bikes from a small traditional factory northeast of Amsterdam.
The company currently ships throughout Canada and the US, and operates
from a gallery-like lifestyle store in Vancouver.

         

 

         

         

Purchasing ingredients for a story

         

         

 

         

Now,
(STILL) MADE HERE watches, tailor-made suits and bikes are all pretty
visible status symbols, which thus often by default tell ‘the others’ a
story on behalf of their owners.

         

However, with
individualism being the new religion in most mature consumer societies,
and consumers wanting to be anything BUT the Joneses, Li’s or Meiers,
we’ve seen a rising interest in the truly different, the obscure, the
undiscovered and the authentic.
            These new status symbols thrive on not
being well known or easily spotted. They don’t tell a story themselves,
but require their owners to recount the story. This sub-trend will
swell as ever-growing material abundance is pushing
desperate-to-stand-out consumers even deeper into the experience
economy. Which means there’s nothing physical to show for anyway, just
a collection of experiences that can be talked about.

         

            To make a long story short (no pun intended), consumers will increasingly end up purchasing the ingredients for a story, turning brands into STORY SUPPLIERS instead of the currently ‘en vogue’ practice of coming up with stories about brands. Anyway, we’ll get  back to this in more detail in one of our Q3 briefings.
            
For now — and back to the (STILL) MADE HERE angle — it suffices to note
that the local aspect of these story ingredients is going to be very
prominent. Let’s turn to the food and beverage sector one more time:
restaurants like Canteen and Konstam at the Prince Albert in London, Foodball in Barcelona and Google’s much discussed 150
go out of their way to locally source produce. Konstam, for example,
sources everything it cooks from within the M25, while the name of
Google’s ‘150’ reflects the fact that ingredients come from within a
150-mile radius of the restaurant at corporate headquarters in Mountain
View, CA. So not only are they serving their customers hearty meals,
they’re also providing them with a story to share with their peers.

         

 

         

         

One more example of (STILL) MADE HERE and story ingredients: the founders of Izzy Lane,
a new British clothing brand, rescue sheep from being sent to slaughter
for being male, missing a pregnancy, being a little lame, being too
small, being too old or having imperfections in their fleece. The ones
that are bought by Izzy Lane live happily ever after in their Sheep
Sanctuary: last year the company saved 400 lucky sheep. Combining their
passion for animals, great clothes and Britain, these confirmed
vegetarians have created a line of knitwear made of the wool from their
flock of rescued sheep.

         

Shetland skirts and suits
are made from their flock of 250 Shetland sheep. Some of the knitwear
is made from the wool of Wensleydale sheep, an endangered breed, with
only about 1,800 left in the world. They have 250, most of which were
destined for the meat markets before Izzy Lane saved them. The clothing
is made locally by neighboring craftsmen — the last worsted spinners
and dyers in the Bradford area. The cloth is woven at an ancient mill
in Selkirk using Victorian machinery that has been operating for over a
hundred years. For each Izzy Lane garment, the full provenance, from
the fleece through the whole manufacturing process to the garment
itself, is known. Now what will beget the wearers of Izzy Lane’s
clothes more status: the (obscure) label, or telling the heartwarming
story behind their sweater?

         

 

         

         


         

         

 

         

         

 

         

 

         

3. Support

         

         

 

         

Backing local communities

         

But there’s more. A third, ongoing driver behind (STILL) MADE HERE is the importance of community,
especially because to many consumers, ‘global’ has come to represent
faceless, rootless mega-corporations and supranational bodies, headed
up by money grabbing executives whose golden parachutes seem to grow
with the degree of incompetence they’ve let loose on employees and
other stakeholders. Far from being chauvinistic nationalist movements,
(STILL) MADE HERE and (STILL) SOLD HERE will increasingly be about
supporting one’s neighborhood, one’s city, one’s region, to regain a
sense of place and belonging and to safeguard future access to the
special and original, vs. the bland, the global and the commoditized.

         

Two  interesting retail initiatives from the UK should get you going on this one:

         

         

“Bought locally, ordered online and delivered to your door.” That sums up what Poptotheshops
offers South Wales residents. Poptotheshops, which was launched late
last year, currently serves four high street areas, who each sell
between 3300 and 4500 products using the internet shopping service. The
company’s founder came up with the idea after being dismayed about
being too busy to shop at local stores. Most local shops have shorter
opening hours than the big chains like Tesco and Walmart, which can
make it hard to support local retailers. On Poptotheshops, customers
can shop day or night, selecting products from the local butcher,
baker, fishmonger, greengrocer and off-license, before checking out in
one go. Similar to online shopping at supermarkets, customers can save
favorite products and specify when they’d like delivery to take place.
Delivery is free for customers. Poptotheshops covers its costs (and
will hopefully generate a profit) by charging retailers 10-15%
commission.

         

Besides supporting the local economy and keeping the high street alive,
PTTS also sees other benefits: independent stores often offer great
local products and produce that aren’t available in nationwide stores,
consumers save time otherwise spent in supermarkets and helping small
retailers thrive decreases the control that supermarkets have over
pricing, produce and suppliers.

         

 

         

         

Another example from the UK (where protest against the loss of local character of the High Street has been most vocal): the Wedge
is a loyalty card with a difference. No store with more than 10
branches can participate. The card costs GBP 20 (USD 39), half of which
goes to local charities. Wedge gives members special offers and
discounts, usually 10% off, at nearly 100 shops. Merchants hope that
the Wedge Card will give people an extra incentive to shop there rather
than in the superstores. Initially the money will go to two local
charities, but in future customers will be able to pick the charity
that will benefit from their card.

         

 

         

         

 

         

 

         

More, more, more!

         

         

Even more reasons why the (STILL) MADE HERE trend will continue to grow: the GENERATION C  (creative consumers) and MINIPRENEUR
trends are still going strong, adding hundreds of thousands of local,
independent artists, producers and manufacturers to the production pile
and flooding the market with millions of truly authentic, niche goods
and services.

         

 

         

         

Which can then be discovered by authenticity-seeking consumers through
ever more sophisticated local indexes and search engines. Ranging from Google Local, which is taking on   the Yellow Pages and TomToms of this world, to small players like  San Francisco-based Green Zebra Guide,
a combined shopping guide and coupon book that offers consumers savings
of over USD 12,000 at more than 250 local organic restaurants, shops,
spas, yoga and Pilates studios, independent bookstores, bike shops,
museums and more. To add to Green Zebra’s (STILL) MADE HERE effect,
many of the participating businesses are local independents whose
brands aren’t as recognizable as their larger chain competitors.
         

         

            
         

         

Ok,
one more example of how consumers will not only have more local
products and artisans to potentially choose from, but also more ways to
find them. Check out Singaporean inQbox
(which stands for incubation in a box), a small store in a Singapore
mall that is stacked with well-lit, attractive shelving units. It rents
out ‘boxes’ to small businesses and artists, providing them with retail
and gallery space, and taking care of the daily hassles of retail.
Prices for a box start at SGD 80 (EUR 40/USD 50) per month, depending
on size and location within the store. Vendors are selected carefully,
and the store is popular with shoppers for its unique array of wares.
Lots of shoppers means valuable mini-real estate, so there’s often a
long waiting list for boxes.

         

As inQbox puts it, they aim to "encourage creativity and
entrepreneurship by providing individuals with a low cost and low risk
platform to develop and incubate their talents further than just a
hobby, home business or side interest. This allows you to continue with
your busy life, be it taking care of your children, traveling or
working in a corporate firm." (STILL) MADE HERE meets GENERATION C
meets CURATED CONSUMPTION. The future may just be local….

         

 

         

Opportunities

         

         

Don’t be bland! (Picture courtesy of Airlinemeals.net)
            
         

         

As
we stated before, (STILL) MADE HERE is a good conversation starter. It
doesn’t in any way signal the end of globalization and it won’t save
incompetent, uncompetitive local producers from innovative, global
competitors. To further downplay its importance, remember that trends
rarely apply to all consumers. (STILL) MADE HERE is no exception to the
rule. Some consumers will not care at all about
the origins of their purchases, will feel no need to sacrifice money or
time for the environment, or have no interest in sharing stories with
others. And when it comes to local versus global, never forget that
globalization has brought consumers plenty of delights and excitement.

         

What  (STILL) MADE HERE does provide eager marketers  with, is a fantastic source of inspiration: those consumers who are
interested in something with a sense of place, the local, the storied,
want you to bring them innovative new goods, services and experiences
that appeal to those desires.

         

Now, this trend is easy to apply to any B2C industry. Just a few questions to ask yourself:

         

  • Which
    of our customers would enjoy knowing more about our product, and would
    be interested in accessing our product’s life story, from an eco or
    ethics angle? How could we (literally) attach those stories to existing
    and new products? Can we start working on advanced labels like those
    that Tesco and Timberland are experimenting with?
  • Is
    there a business opportunity in creating a new brand or turning one of
    our existing brands into a purely local play, including a compelling
    local story (and premium margins)? Should we partner with some of the
    new players in this field?
  • Can we add story ingredients to  some of our more obscure or virtual products, helping our customers tell stories to others?
                  Should we create new products that do this, if most of what we offer is more mainstream?

         

              And so on. It’s not rocket science (is it ever?), so happy local spotting!

         

 

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