Richard Cope
Richard is a Senior Trends Consultant, bringing the latest consumer trends to Mintel clients through bespoke presentations and represents Mintel at global conferences.

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her platinum jubilee, we look forward to the trends that will define the next 70 years and the changing consumer landscape to which brands will need to adapt.

Major changes in Britain when Elizabeth became Queen

By 1952, Britain’s position in the world was changing, with imperial rule having been overthrown by independence movements and largely replaced with a ‘commonwealth’ membership. It was fully four years since the MV Empire Windrush had docked in Tilbury, Essex, disembarking workers from the Jamaica and Trinidad to ease post-war labour shortages and usher in an era of wider commonwealth migration that built the country’s transport and health sectors and diversified, defined and awakened its cultural and culinary tastes. This same year, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that the UK had an atomic bomb and as a young Queen took the throne, female power and expression were also being defined (by men) through the inaugural Miss Universe beauty pageant, won by Armi Kuusela of Finland.

Source: Instagram.
British consumer lifestyles have changed significantly since the Queen’s coronation

The need for skilled immigration and its impact on British lifestyles

These issues echo through the ages and some 70 years later, Britain again finds itself asking new questions about its place in the world, struggling to account for its colonial and patriarchal past, facing a looming austerity crisis and pondering what to do with nuclear power.

Against a backdrop of Windrush deportation scandals and royals touring the commonwealth to be faced with demands for reparations, Britain needs another shot of new blood and this time its ageing population is the reason.

By 2050, one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 or over and above the traditional pensionable age, creating an even greater financial burden on working-age adults when it comes to funding healthcare and pension costs. The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that the Old Age Dependency Ratio (the number of people of pensionable age and over per 1,000 people aged 16 plus) could be pushing 400 by 2067, up from just 287 today.

Photo: R Cope
Britain has an ageing population and requires a new Windrush style wave of migration

Under a ‘zero migrant’ scenario this would swell to 457, but would drop back to 378 in a ‘high migrant’ scenario, the ONS says. The UK government reports that over 5 million European Economic Area (EEA) nationals have been granted settled status post-Brexit, but India’s reclamation of the top position for countries of birth for the UK’s foreign-born population in 2019 was significant, heralding a future where younger African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries increasingly generate the skilled workers (the UK government has committed to hiring 50,000 nurses by 2024) and fertile parents required to revitalise the country. Right now, after Indians, Nigerians and then Filipinos are receiving the highest number of skilled work visas for entry to the UK.

Listen carefully through the noise of the disconcertingly vocal and mainstream anti-migrant rhetoric and initiatives like a visa scheme to potentially give 5.4 million Hong Kong residents UK citizenship tells the true story. As at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, this influx will come to define a new era in innovation, aesthetics, taste and culture, demanding inclusivity and representation from brands, but also providing them with reservoirs of fresh talent, inspiration and custom.

Live longer, work longer 

The Queen embodies the trend towards longer working lives, and challenges the notion that ageing demands retirement and thus more migration, even if republicans might understandably quibble with a royal definition of ‘work’. Some 10% of over 65s were economically active in 2018 – almost double the proportion back in 1992 – and the ONS projects that 50% of 65-69s will hold this status by 2067. The trend towards extended employment will partly be a positive choice, stemming from improved health and longevity and digital gig economy opportunities, but it is driven equally by harsh financial necessity – something that threatens to define the coming years, recalling the austerity that defined Elizabeth’s early Britain.

Source: Getty Images
The predicted return of the roaring 20s seems misplaced

A re-emergence of trends from the 1950s

As our pandemic-scarred generation finds hopes of a renascent “roaring 20s” stymied by rising fuel and food costs, it’s easy to find parallels with the 1950s and make a case for wider adoption of “make do and mend” values, supported by brand expertise. This could be a good thing if it sees obsolescence and waste designed or priced out of the picture from technology to food.

Changes to the items in the ONS’s Consumer Prices Index basket used to calculate inflation are indicative of how UK consumer lives are already pivoting towards more informal, protective and sustainable futures. In 2022, in came meat-free sausages, canned pulses, sports bras and antibacterial surface wipes and out went doughnuts, men’s suits and coal.

Elizabeth’s Britain emerged from its early hardships into an era of unbridled consumerism, youth culture and social mobility. For all the talk of the “jet age”, it was the era in which cars took off: the number of households with a car quadrupled in a decade according to the RAC. If anything, we’re likely to see ownership of vehicles plummet in the coming decades due to time, space and money pressures as consumers more broadly favour access over purchasing and underutilisation.

The same goes for homes, with renters predicted to account for 55% of the housing market by 2045, as ownership proves too costly in a market dominated by old money, according to VeriSmart, a letting compliance firm. Her Majesty’s three castles and 17 additional properties are another on-trend example, symbolising how property ownership has become skewed towards the older generation, with inherited wealth increasingly key to getting onto the property ladder.

The final echo of the 50s sees us entering a new atomic age, where the UK seeks to up nuclear power’s contribution to its energy mix from 16% to 25% in a bid to eventually extricate itself from the environmentally, and politically, dirty world of fossil fuels.

Queen of ‘girl power’ – but still lacking female boardroom leaders

The Queen has been called the most ‘powerful’ woman in the world and The Crown has entrenched the view that there is much to learn from how she runs ‘the firm’. Yet this kind of power – whether deployed for good or ill – hardly typifies a modern Britain where only eight of the FTSE 100’s CEOs are women. At board level, the future does look more encouraging with the UK’s top 350 companies exceeding their voluntary target of 33% of women on all boards, but the UK still ranks only 23rd in the Global Gender Gap Index Ratings charting progress on inequalities.

Truth be told, the UK’s national anthem is something of a dirge for a country that produced the MBE-winning (and MBE-returning in the case of John Lennon) melodicism of The Beatles, yet its lyrics are fascinating, with the deeper, less familiar verses pointing towards some of the future challenges the country still faces. Elizabeth may not be long to reign over us but this deference and respect afforded to her by Britain needs extending to all its female citizens if the country is to progress and prosper, whilst the words of its national anthem need turning into welcoming – rather than all-conquering – national values and deeds:

Lord make the nations see
That men should brothers be
And form one family
The wide world over

Interested to learn how the changing consumer landscape will impact your business strategy over the next 70 years? Speak to one of our ConsultantsOr, perhaps, 70 years is too far afield. How does the next eight years sound?

Our experts have predicted the global consumer trends that will evolve through 2030, offering insights and recommendations for those strategy planning in the 3-5-year range – as well as global consumer trends for 2022 if immediate actions are what you seek.