Mintel identifies four key North American consumer trends for 2016

October 15, 2015

Looking ahead to 2016, Mintel Consumer Trends Consultants Stacy Glasgow and Jenny Zegler discuss the four key North America consumer trends set to impact the US and Canada markets, including implications for both consumers and brands in the year ahead.

Balance or Bust

Multifaceted consumers are finding harmony by going to extremes.

“The swelling multitude of services, products and experiences available to consumers leaves them ‘wanting it all.’ TV ‘binge’ watching and other technology based activities have become commonplace, but many people seek to offset these ‘over indulgences’ with real world interaction. While people are finding they can ‘have it all,’ they desire a sense of balance in their lives, and by going from one extreme to another they aim to achieve that balance.

“Mintel research confirms consumer interest in the proliferating business models that allow them to share or to have unlimited access for one set fee. For example, around one in five (21 percent) US adults who attend live events would consider paying an annual subscription to see multiple events at a particular venue. In the professional sphere, most Canadian consumers (81 percent) indicated that having a better work/life balance is a personal goal for them in 2015.”

“Consumer demand for convenience and immediacy will continue to deepen, and advancements in 3D printing and drone usage promise to deliver elevated instant gratification. Another balance of extremes that will emerge are self-driving cars and other autonomous machinery, which will further the sci-fi prediction of a world reliant upon robots,” said Stacy Glasgow, Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. 

The Big Brand Theory

A brand’s story can make or break consumer purchases, which is driving the growth of craft, but not necessarily leaving big business behind.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, consumers have exchanged the ‘bigger is better’ mantra for right-sized purchases and supporting small businesses.

“In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, consumers have exchanged the ‘bigger is better’ mantra for right-sized purchases and supporting small businesses. Aspirations have included pledges to choose mom-and-pop stores that led to a growth in farmers markets and interest in buying handmade items online, giving consumers the ability to learn more about the maker or the production process.”

Interest in craft products has been led in large part by an explosion in craft beer and spirits, and for Canadian beer drinkers, brand holds weight. While 72 percent of Canadian beer drinkers agree that the taste of the beer is more important than the brand which produces it, ultimately brand familiarity is the number one choice factor (68 percent) when ordering a beer in a pub or restaurant. Consumers report conflicting attitudes when it comes to judging businesses based on size. Mintel research shows 36 percent of US consumers trust big companies to do the right thing, while nearly half (49 percent) trust small companies to do the right thing.

“Niche is no longer a limitation, nor is it an opportunity reserved for small companies. We’ve entered an era where the power of the story and the authenticity of the connection supersedes any lofty moral aspirations, such as ‘shopping small.’ This creates opportunities for businesses of all sizes to create new enterprises that do not venture too far from the ‘soul’ of their company,” said Jenny Zegler, Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel.

Eye Get It

An image is worth a thousand words – but consumers now rely on it for time savings, too.

Conveying messages through images dates back to prehistoric cave drawings; now, live-streaming apps like Periscope allow people to experience happenings as they unfold. Yet, the most indicative development of an image-driven culture is that people are coming to rely heavily on emojis to communicate.”

The rise in reliance on visual communication is driven by the strain of fast-paced life and consumers’ desires to make things easier. The quickness of mobile payment methods, such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, has encouraged adoption, and 31 percent of US consumers have already used mobile payments. Mintel’s research indicates further interest in even quicker, wearable payment methods, such as wristbands, which are of interest to half (50 percent) of Millennials. What’s more, 55 percent of Canadians are interested in storing loyalty and rewards cards on mobile devices.”

“In 2016 and beyond, we will see a rapid development in the new ways in which people are able to communicate and interact through visuals. Some of the biggest innovations will come in the form of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). We’ll even see holograms come alive and seamlessly integrate with the physical world. Brands risk being left behind unless they find ways to leverage these universally quick and comprehensible visual media,” Glasgow continues.

Pride and Persona

Companies are looking to strengthen relationships with consumers by recognizing and reflecting our more diverse and open-minded society.

“Shifts in the traditional definitions of gender, race and other formerly standard demographics are reforming our culture. These changes are increasing the number of equality-focused consumers who expect that products, advertising and corporate policies will reflect the new reality of the population.”

“Consumers are already familiar with the notion that what they buy can express their morals or support causes that are important to them. According to Mintel research, Canadians consumers take a stance when buying beauty products with 54 percent avoiding those that are harmful to the environment. Furthermore, many children are already embodying values of equality as 83 percent of US kids and 88 percent of US teens agree it is important to accept people with different racial or ethnic backgrounds.”

“Bold steps are being taken by small businesses that are founded on the principles of inclusion and equality, and we’re also seeing some larger companies join in the effort. In 2016, it will become more apparent that companies need not shy away from making statements, especially those that stand to broaden their appeal among more equality-focused consumers,” concluded Zegler.


Interviews with Consumer Trends Consultants Stacy Glasgow and Jenny Zegler, and Senior Canadian Lifestyles Analyst Carol Wong-Li are available on request from the press office.

The full copy of Mintel’s North America Consumer Trends 2016 is available for free download here, including how the US consumer trends may come to life in 2016: Mintel’s Global Trend Analysts have used the trend predictions as a springboard to develop original product and service concepts that could hit the marketplace in 2016.


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