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.

An emerging generation of youthful and upwardly mobile African consumers present a major market opportunity for foreign brands. Conversely, research from Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) and Mintel Trends showcases a wealth of African service and product innovations that have the potential to appeal to European customers.

Feasibly, it is simpler to begin importing from Africa, using market approaches celebrating the region’s youthfulness as well as its ancient heritage across pop culture, fashion, gastronomy and beauty.

Here, Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant, highlights the areas of interest and opportunity that brands should be taking note of.


hero genPop Culture

We’re familiar with Nollywood as the world’s second-biggest film producer, employing 1 million people and producing 50 films a week, but comic books are also emerging as an African cultural export. In response to the lack of black characters, Nigerian start-up Comic Republic has created an African superhero comic series called ‘Hero Generation’, which has attracted 25,000 downloads from the USA, UK and Asia, with only 30% of all downloads originating from Nigeria. Supa Strikas meanwhile is a football series that now prints 1.4 million copies across 16 countries.


Flowers, chocolate and beerchocolate mama

Flowers are another emerging African force. Three in 10 of Europe’s cut flowers come from Kenya due to the fact that it’s cheaper to fly them in than it is to heat Dutch greenhouses. As well as, three quarters of the world’s cocoa is currently being produced in Africa. Brands such as The Chocolate Mamas Gourmet Tanzanian Chocolate Company are capitalising on this by using Tanzanian cocoa beans from small-scale farmers and local sugar to create a 100% African artisan products sold at premium prices. In terms of beer, Africa produces Tella, a traditional Ethiopian gluten free beer made from the ancient grain Teff, which has the potential to crossover into the booming global craft beer market.


Ancient Beauty

Ancient grains have captivated European consumers, and Africa is positioned to profit. The continent is home to a host of ancient grains, including Sorghum – gluten-free, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and protein – and Einkorn – high in protein, fat, potassium and also suitable for low-gluten diets. On Mintel GNPD we’re witnessing Einkorn expand as an ingredient in night creams (Oriflame), boosters (Centella) and concealers (Almay). We’re familiar with Tapioca (derived from cassava) in our rice puddings and bubble teas, but it’s now also being repositioned as a cleansing powder, make up remover, exfoliator and face mask by beauty brand Kaia.

Africa’s superfood Baobab is now finding its way into our smoothies and breakfasts in powdered form thanks to Aduna in the UK and into South African soaps and oils from Chardine and Canway, whilst the red Rooibos bush – familiar to us in tea form – is appearing in South African conditioners and day creams.

Other, more familiar, African beauty products have the potential to crossover in authentic form too, including black soap made from the ash of locally harvested plants and barks such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea buttermade from the fat of shea tree nuts.



Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys have all acted as style ambassadors for Kente cloths and Ankara print fabrics, helping brands like ASOS push them into the mainstream, in an authentic, ethical way. We cannot mention African fashion without a courteous nod of appreciation to Les Sapeurs (Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes / Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), the Democratic Republic of Congo’s snazzy male dressers who abide by a sartorial and gentlemanly code. However, we are now seeing other fashion exports pitched toward males in Japan and the UK, thanks to Maxhosa By Laduma’s line of knitwear inspired by the clothes worn by Xhosa in South Africa when they reach manhood.



What we think

Trade with Africa is a growing opportunity for retailers in other continents and, commercially, the scale of population growth makes even the proportionally small middle class a lucrative target market for foreign brands. We also see opportunity in promoting exportation of authentic, beneficial, stylish African products to foreign markets, in the name of trade not aid. Commercially this is viable; morally, the failure to help improve the living standards of so many in such a rapidly expanding population spells disaster; and that goes for the outside world too.

Richard Cope is Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel. He works as a trends analyst, consultant, presenter and facilitator on bespoke client projects. As a globally recognised leading trends commentator, he is regularly called on by media worldwide to provide insight and analysis into consumer trends.