FOOD: Bigger than the Plate

The kids recently went back to school and it didn’t seem fair to me that they get to crack on with that heady job of learning while all us oldies have is a more crowded commute.

To celebrate September, and to do some learning, the Razors went on a field trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum to feast on its latest exhibition, FOOD: Bigger than the Plate.

I love the V&A. I love wandering past all the ‘old stuff’ and into a space that, over the years, has given me McQueen, Kylie, Princess Diana, Bowie, and cruise ships. They’re nothing if not eclectic over there. 

What did I learn?
That pineapple fabric is pretty cool, that I need to watch more YouTube (Italian Grandmas Try Olive Garden For The First Time had me hooting in hallowed halls), that chickens are fabulous and complicated, and that the people who get our food to our plates – from cake to carrot – deserve all of our respect. 

Like any good schoolmistress, I naturally doled out some homework after our visit. Here’s what the team had to say:

Lindsay
“I was fascinated by the ingenuity of others and their desire to find ways to be more sustainable (who knew you could make cups and saucers out of used coffee grounds?!). With all the talk of global warming and how we’re ruining our planet, it was comforting to see many examples of people trying to make a difference. (It made me feel like I should do something too!) I also really enjoyed the video reel on how food is produced and farmed all around the world. I’d genuinely never given any thought as to how my iceberg lettuce is harvested and prepped to be sold. I often think about technology and the potential for it to render humans obsolete, so it was quite refreshing to see examples of humans and technology working together in food production.”

Chloe B
“I really enjoyed the exhibition. There’s something that stuck with me from the moment we walked in: 60% of the world still doesn’t have access to clean water. I had no idea it was that much and it’s already made me stop being so wasteful with tap water. I’m a big hypocrite when it comes to eating meat (I love eating it but can’t bear to think about the process behind it) so watching the video reel of a mass production line was pretty disturbing. It might not be enough to put me off meat for good but it’s definitely made me want to make my food choices more carfeully.”

Nikisha
“I thought the digital farming aspect was fascinating. Using computer robotic systems to adjust and monitor climate, energy and plant growth inside a specialised growing chamber really blew my mind. Creating varying climatic conditions for different products opens up agricultural research to the digital generation and could allow for more products to be grown here rather than imported from different countries. It was scary, but comforting, to see how the digital world could farm products locally and help reduce climate change. I like to think of my food being grown organically but if this method could help to reduce the global impact of exportation then why not? The marriage of farming and technology is a beautiful concept and I think it should be adopted everywhere. I also enjoyed LOCI Food Lab where you personally select what makes a great food system and they make an hors d’oeuvre snack tailored just for you. Yum!”

Kate
“This exhibition made me think how little I know (or think) about where my food comes from; and that I totally take for granted how accessible it is. I’m out a fair bit during the week which means I’m often guilty of food wastage. I actually stopped myself buying an iceberg lettuce the other day having had my eyes opened to the laborious process from field to supermarket. The final exhibit is LOCI Food Lab where we got to try a canapé of sustainable food which I found surprisingly enjoyable and made me feel positive about the future of food!”

Gem
“My general expectation was that I’d come away from this exhibition with some new ideas to help change my behaviours. What I hadn’t banked on was how charming it would also be. FOOD: Bigger than the Plate is as entertaining as it is informative. I could go on about almost every exhibit for hours, but my favourite part was a 13-minute silent loop of short video clips showing the sinister truths of food production (not just obligatory abattoir scenes but the crop-dusting and crop-picking too). When we see these kind of clips on TV there’s usually a narrator stealing focus. This time, the images did all the talking, leaving me with plenty of food for thought.”

Here’s to being well and truly back at school! (If we’ve whetted your appetite, the exhibition will be on until Sunday 20th October.)

A ‘hop-ed’ piece

The craft beer revolution may be retreating from its explosive peak; but it’s here to stay and its impact on the market will be long-lasting.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed a journey from being a traditional ale (and sometime lager) drinker to being a DIPA and Saison swiller. But, recently, I felt that journey had reached a crossroads. A bank holiday BBQ with friends meant I needed to buy beer; so, in the preceding week, I scoured a host of craft beer sites looking for the interesting brews that would inspire my taste buds and put me ahead of my chums in our ‘craft beer arms race’. Naturally, my friends were all engaging in this daft competition too. As a result, we washed down our burgers and bangers with a raft of very expensive, incredibly strong and, largely undrinkable, beers from flamboyant cans. This is probably atypical and, quite frankly, sad behaviour but I suspect that many beer drinkers will have experienced echoes of this scenario.

There are signs of craft beer growth slowing in the US, and I can see why it’s appeal may be waning. Firstly, there’s the problem that assails modern consumers in so many areas of their consumption – choice paralysis. Whether it’s on or off-trade, making a decision has become infinitely harder as even bog-standard boozers have a dizzying array of beers stretching the length of the bar and mainstream supermarkets range scores of craft SKUs. Remember the good old days when you could just ask for ‘a pint of best’ and you knew what you were getting?

Then there’s the cost and strength – a bruised wallet and thumping head after my BBQ were my initial triggers for writing this! Obviously, when beers cost £6 a can and weigh in at 8.5% ABV, they can’t be a part of mainstream session drinking (highlighting the limitations to growth for the category). Linked to this is the fact that the same hop-forward, premium-priced craft beer – which feels well-suited to drinking in a Dalston industrial estate taproom – seems out of place in the neighbourhood pubs of the suburbs and provinces.    

Finally, craft is finding it hard to retain its cool. On the one hand, the leading-edge of craft is part of the caricature of the achingly cool hipster which is becoming passé. And on the other, as big brewers buy up the micro-breweries or develop brands which invoke craft tropes, the authenticity of the category is being chipped away.

But that’s not to say craft is dead. The impact of Punk IPA and its ilk is likely to be similar to that of punk rock. Punk rock raged and snarled during its 18-month peak in the late 70s before retreating from the limelight; but it continued to influence music and culture for decades to come. Similarly, craft beer taps into too many long-term established trends to simply evaporate.

Provenance has excited food and drink consumers for years, making even the most mundane product sound interesting (who knew Himalayan salt could be so exciting?!). Craft beer plays to this brilliantly with beers brewed super-locally. The focus on provenance is aligned to other enduring trends around artisanal product, collaboration and experience. These are brought to life on a trip to any microbrewer’s taproom. (On a recent visit to Beavertown I enjoyed a small-batch collaboration with a Danish brewer next to the tank it had been brewed in, whilst I ate street food from a local start-up.) What’s more, experiences like this are ripe for social media sharing/boasting and the edgy can designs are highly Instagrammable too!

In addition, with younger consumers less likely to drink regularly and the consumer trend towards small treats, there is genuine interest in unique, special products at a premium price-point amongst a key group.

So, what does all this mean for the next few years? For my money, I suspect a slowing of UK craft growth but for it to remain a sizeable fixture on the drinking scene. Craft beer itself may change, with more lower percentage options – like table beer – proliferating, and some of the more extreme flavours falling by the wayside (particularly away from taprooms and specialist sites). In an effort to play to the desire for artisanal product and social media-friendly experiences, craft brewers are likely to put even greater focus on events and gifting.

And of course, there’s no doubt that craft has – and will continue to – influence the mainstream. Think big brewers producing hoppier styles and playing with more daring branding.

Next BBQ season I suspect I’ll be drinking a 4.5% pale ale whilst listening to Sham 69!

Sleep deprived?

Foggy. Wonky. Out of it. However you say it, I’m simply not functioning this morning*. I’m not distracted. I’m not bored. My mind feels dense – like a saturated sponge I just can’t wring out. I’m reading the same lines over and over but nothing is going in. Even my miracle-worker, coffee, can’t pull me out of this lull. What on earth should I do?

Sleep.

We seem to consider sleep a luxury, the quality kind reserved specially for the weekends, for rest days, for our teenage years. Well, I have good news and bad news; adequate sleep should be so much more than a weekend indulgence. Now I’m not saying that ‘catching up on sleep’ is suddenly a valid excuse for being late to work. BUT we should treat sleep in the same way we treat food…with the utmost importance!

On a cellular level, as we sleep our bodies repair and restores themselves. Therefore a lack of sleep limits us during the day both mentally and physically.

Insufficient sleep alters focus and inhibits learning and memory processes. Research suggests that when we sleep, memory consolidation occurs through the strengthening of neural connections. These then form our memories. If we don’t get enough sleep, it impedes our ability to develop any new information we acquire. Also, without adequate sleep, overworked neurons cannot function to coordinate information properly. This means we not only struggle to learn new things, but we also struggle to recall things we already know. (Suddenly the ‘dense’ feeling I experienced earlier is making more sense.)

We know that inadequate sleep slows our reaction time and hinders our decision-making abilities. Did you also know that it has a similar effect on the brain as drinking alcohol?

Sleep also plays a huge role in our physical well-being. Roger Federer gets 12 hours’ sleep a night. Yes, that is a little extreme, but many top athletes prioritise sleep so much more than the rest of us. That’s because sleep is crucial to healthy growth and development. Indeed, it is deep sleep that triggers the release of hormones needed to help build muscle mass and repair any cells and tissues damaged by fitness training. Whether you’re a casual gym-goer, a park runner, or an athlete, sleep is equally important.

Even if you care not for a focused mind-set, strong concentration, healthy growth, or sufficient muscle recovery, adequate sleep should still be a priority. That’s because sleep affects our attitude towards food. Yes, you read that correctly, FOOD. Sleep deprivation increases our ghrelin levels and decreases our leptin levels. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones; ghrelin makes you feel hungry, leptin makes you feel full. Simply put, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you tend to feel hungrier. If this isn’t an incentive to prioritise sleep then I don’t know what is. No one likes to be hangry.

So, there it is. Sleep is our refueller, our friend, our saviour. Who knew how much our bodies do while we’re getting a bit of shut-eye? Off for an early one tonight I think.

*Not really ‘this’ morning.

I pod, therefore I am

I’m a self-confessed telly addict. I’ve a penchant for photography. I occasionally buy art and I’m not a naysayer when it comes to PowerPoint. Basically, I’m cool with visuals.

But spoken-word audio has a hold over me that none of the above does. It’s my solace, my constant companion, my daily diversion. It has a language and tonality that the visually vivid mediums don’t. 

Podcasts are my medium. You’re never waiting for something to happen. Listening to a podcast is a constant cultural update, a chance to learn, a way of being exposed to the world through different lenses.

I trade favourites with friends and colleagues; quickly subscribing when I get a recommendation and unsubscribing, just as quickly, if the first episode doesn’t grab me. I get pod anxiety. I don’t like having too big a backlog to contend with. I like to keep up.

It shames me a little that I have a preference for American podcasts – I feel disloyal to the British accent. My preference for American male presenters makes me feel even more disloyal. I hate female presenters’ propensity for vocal fry – something I learned about…from a podcast.

Recent favourites, despite my aforementioned preferences, is the R4 podcast ‘Fortunately…’ with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. It’s truly astonishingly brilliant. Just two women chatting. Recommended, and quickly ditched, are two other women chatting; Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton from ‘The High Low’. (If I’m honest, they lost me at ‘Pandora and Dolly’ – can’t bear them). I’m also loving ‘Atlanta Monster’ (yep, more true crime), ‘Gravy’ (food tales from the American south) and will never abandon ‘The Food Programme’ or ‘The Archers’.

This is all leading somewhere… 

I’ve always wanted my own ‘research toy’. By which I mean a ‘thing’ that isn’t quite work but isn’t not work. A thing that would give me a chance to play, to experiment, and the freedom to make mistakes in my own time, not that of my clients’ (yet, anyway!)  A gift to me to celebrate ten years of Razor and a gift to a client who’s been loyal and fabulous to work with for most of those ten years.

I’ve made my first podcast.

How’s that for a cliffhanger?

Stay tuned for my next blog to find out how it went.

Digital natives

Cute little boy in headphones watching something on laptop at home

Today’s kids are growing up in a digital universe with all the power at their fingertips. We already know that the digital world is an enchanting place for kids – but it can also be a dangerous one. Cyberbullying, exposure to unrealistic images, fake news, sexual content, violent imagery…It’s a risky landscape to navigate and could have a detrimental effect on kids’ mental health.

A few weeks ago, YouTube hit the headlines for streaming a video by influential tween icon, Logan Paul. The video showed footage of what appeared to be a dead body in a location, referred to as ‘Suicide Forest’. Shockingly, not only did the video make it through the YouTube filters (receiving 6.3 million views!) but it also made it through to the top trending videos list.

And a few months ago, YouTube caused another storm for allowing violent and offensive content to slip through the net. This time it wasn’t just for the main channel but also YouTube Kids a standalone app built specifically for children and child-friendly entertainment.

It’s not only inappropriate content that is a concern. We see, from our studies, that girls as young as six are not only conscious of their body shape but tend to be unhappy with it. We’ve no doubt this is being exacerbated by the proliferation of videos and imagery they are viewing.

With the staggering growth and penetration of smartphone and tablet ownership by children, media viewing and active, digital participation has become individual and child-led. It is often unmonitored by a responsible adult. This has, not surprisingly, created tension and concern among parents, teachers, and the government with regards to how safe or appropriate the virtual environment is for young people. There’s been considerable investment in education with interventions to help safeguard children but it’s clear this isn’t working hard enough and that the problem stems from children’s homes. Last year, hype on social media led to many children watching an 18-rated, suicide fantasy series called 13 Reasons Why. By the time schools and parents had found out, it was too late. It proves that access to inappropriate content is easy and highlights the lack of involvement parents have in knowing what their kids are getting up to.

A YouGov survey from 2015 found that British parents were reluctant to have conversations with their children about what they’re up to online – waiting until children turned nine to tackle online safety, despite 91% of eight-year olds accessing the internet once a week. Since then, we’ve seen brands such as O2 and EE open the dialogue to support parents with online protection. 02 have partnered with the NSPCC to offer free online resources and workshops in schools whilst EE are also providing parents and children with tips to stay safe online. This comes after 40% of parents reported that they do not consider online safety when buying technology gifts for their children.

teenager with tablet while lying on the floor in the room

So why aren’t parents doing more?

Parents tell us that they feel disempowered and deskilled to monitor what their kids are doing online. A generational tech gap exists between kids and parents. However, whilst parents are aware of stealth tracking software to monitor their kids’ surfing and social media feeds, uptake of this is very low. A key reason for children’s online and autonomous independence stems from the fact that in many households, working parents are the norm and unable to be around as much. This has impacted on family dynamics. Parents are much more likely to expect help from their offspring around the home and in return are often rewarded with ‘screen time’. Modern parenting styles also skew towards a liberal approach of trusting their children to be responsible and behaving appropriately, especially as parents’ perceptions are that their kids are equipped to navigate online safely. And let’s not forget ‘pester power’ which is in force among hormonal tweens and teens. Tired parents find it hard to resist allowing kids to watch a video or get a social media campaign when persistently being nagged by their children – especially if they feel this will socially ostracise their kids in their social friendship circles.

Whilst we all know children under the age of 13 shouldn’t have a social media account, recent studies show that the truth is far from this. There’s a direct correlation with social media activity and smart phone ownership and in some markets, this is as young as seven years of age. But we can’t blame parents. Many social media platforms are unwilling to admit to an underage user base and squirm their way out of being responsible for this invisible cohort. However, pressure from government, children’s charities, parent and school forums is finally starting to have an effect. Facebook currently has 4,500 moderators and last year announced plans to hire more. Even before Logan Paul’s dramatic fall from grace, YouTube announced similar plans to hire thousands of new moderators.

The media giant is now said to be making changes to the way it moderates content, with a greater focus on footage that might violate their policies whilst further developing advanced learning technology to automatically flag content for removal. It will be interesting to see how future safeguards to protect young people will emerge – especially given the technical skill & knowledge, online giants must have within their reach.

But we also must be careful that support for kids doesn’t mean removing their digital access or being too stringent on restricting their online/social media activity, as there are many benefits about growing up digital and is after all, the world they will be working and communicating within, for years to come.

Teacher and kids lying on floor using digital tablet in library at elementary school

We hear from kids, parents, and teachers about the benefits digital access has brought to learning and education and enhancing children’s creativity and problem-solving skills. In this information age, kids have a genuine thirst for knowledge and the boundaries between learning and play have blurred into ‘edutainment’.  Social media platforms are helping kids understand the importance of growing diverse networks and will put them in good stead in the future and they tap into these for career and leisure purposes.  

Growing independence is also helping them learn to self-regulate their behaviour and abide by their own standards of what’s right and fair.

They are a generation of kids who have greater awareness of what’s going on in the world and are deeply moved by the negative impact that man is having on the planet and want to change this. Access to personal technology has also helped them develop new and far reaching friendships. We’ve heard from families about how connected they feel with each other through chatting on social media platforms, allowing continual, intermittent exchanges about what’s going on in their life or troubling them.

The government’s Internet Safety Strategy consultation came to an end last month. It will be interesting to see how we find a way to balance the benefits of children being online or on social media with safeguarding them more effectively.

Lesley Salem, head of Razor Kids appeared as a panelist at the 2018 MRS Kids & Youth Research Conference, exploring ‘the role of research in protecting and empowering young people online’. If you have an idea on how your organisation could get more involved in sharing significant trends around children’s online safety or could have an impact on policy, we’d love to hear from you.

*References*

Buzzfeed – reactions to Logan Paul
Buzzfeed – parents’ reactions to Logan Paul 
Mashable – YouTube changes
The Guardian – YouTube accused
Polygon – YouTube
Campaign – O2 and NSPCC
EE – staying safe online
EE – press release
The Guardian – moderating social media
The Telegraph – moderators allowed Logan Paul video





 

Digital assistance for life

‘She’s changed our lives for the better.’
‘I don’t know how we ever managed without her.’
‘She’s driving me mad!’
‘She doesn’t listen to me.’
‘I had to pull the plug on her.’

Yep. We’re in that new year/January wasteland where most of us are probably adjusting to the snazzy new gadgets we received for Christmas. (Or pets. At least one of the above sentences refers to a dog.) After playing with them during the holidays, it’s now time to settle them into our regular day-to-day routines.

No prizes for guessing what kind of gadget I’m referring to. The top app on Christmas day for Android and iPhone was Amazon’s Alexa app. While that doesn’t reveal specific device sales figures, it’s a strong indicator that smart speakers/digital assistants were the winning gifts for Christmas 2017. Other brands are, of course, available.

Having watched my friends over the past year adjust to having a virtual assistant in the home, I’ve noted several things – including:

  • How incredibly useful they are.
  • How IMMEDIATELY useful they become.
  • They have a bare minimum of settings.
  • They can do so much.
  • They adjust to accents.
  • They solve arguments.
  • My friends’ children ask these devices for everything – including food.
  • They don’t always work as planned.
  • They can do SO MUCH.

I, personally, don’t own one yet. I’m not even brave enough to install a smart thermostat at home. In fact, I’m one of those annoying people who would unplug everything if I could possibly get away with it. (I’m an anxious person – you get the idea…) BUT I’m intrigued to see how others go about their daily lives with them. As a sort of ‘laggard’, I talk to the early adopters and make my decisions based on their experiences. It’s for the best. Technological advances come so ridiculously quickly that most devices are considered out of date by the time I’m ready to buy in.

The other factor (which really doesn’t help my anxiety levels) is the privacy issue. Yes, Google knows everything I’ve ever asked it/written in Gmail/searched on YouTube. Facebook monitors me, Messenger listens to my conversations, and my phone has GPS. I’ve grudgingly learned to live with the price we pay for convenience – and I can switch them off around me when I feel like it. Having a device in the home listening to my conversations however is (currently) too far a stretch for me – even if it does have a mute button. I daresay I’ll change my mind further down the line but, right now, I live in a tiny flat and don’t have to stumble too far to switch the radio or a light on.

So if 2017 was the year that voice recognition hit the big time, what should we expect in 2018? More functions beyond the living room and kitchen for sure. Sleep technology is bound to be the next big thing. Your smart watch might be able to measure the quality of your sleep today, but how about app-enhanced beds for us and our pets tomorrow? Or bathroom solutions to control the length of our showers and water temperature? These can’t be too far away. In fact, I’m sure they already exist – I’m just too lazy to ask Google to verify. And I’ll be inundated with targeted ads for all sorts of tech wizardry if I do.  

Point is, it won’t be too long before the majority of our day-to-day tasks can’t happen without digital assistance.

What would make me cave in? Stuart Heritage summed things up in a way I can relate to:

‘You know how your heart sinks when you go to a shop and accidentally spend slightly more than £30, because it means you have to forego contactless payment in favour of manually entering your pin number with your fat cow hands like some sort of gormless circus monkey? That’s how it felt when I returned the Echo and reverted to digging out my phone, opening an app, typing some words, scrolling through choices and pressing play on my dumb anachronism of a Sonos. What had once been magical had suddenly become a chore.’

(If you liked that, give his whole article a read.)

While the tech isn’t suited to me (just yet), I’m genuinely excited to see how it will enhance the lives of the elderly and those with limited mobility. There’s a world of voice-controlled possibilities out there. 

Don’t be afraid to take whisks


Me: Will you be tuning into Bake Off, Chloë?
Chloë: Of course I will. I’m not one to hold a grudge.


We are, of course, referring to the latest series of The Great British Bake Off – which has now made its home in the colourful, advert and sponsorship-filled, bosom of Channel 4.

In contrast to Chloë, I do have a tendency to hold grudges. I’ve still not forgiven Mondelēz for ’rounding’ the famous block-shaped Cadbury Dairy Milk bars. (Apparently that move was to improve the ‘mouth feel’ of the chocolate – pfffffft.) And don’t even get me started on the fact that Nestlé ditched the foil and paper wrapping on Kit-Kats in favour of plastic. (It’s been 16 years, Gem. Let it go.)

But like all chocolate addicts, I grudgingly indulge in the above brands. And, grudgingly, I’ll give GBBO a whirl. 

My back is already up, however, because I know the episodes will be shorter to make up for all the sponsorship idents and ad breaks. It’s like when manufacturers make products smaller but still charge you the same price for them. We still end up going along with it despite feeling a little bit cheated on value.

There’s also the line-up change. We’ve all substituted ingredients in recipes before. Even some of our favourite foodie brands have had to make changes along the way. Sometimes the end product turns out even better than expected – not always, mind. 

I can just about cope with a lack of Mary Berry. Not to mention Mel and Sue. (Arrrrgh! This is really happening.) But, in the end, it will all come down to that key ingredient – the bakers. As long as the producers have found me somebody to love, the same way I fell in love with Selasi last year, we’ll be back in the old groove in no time. (And, yet again, I will feel a little bit dirty for being so fickle.)  

In praise of the periodical

I suffered hoots of derision. HOOTS. Last bank holiday weekend, I hunkered down with a glossy new copy of Modern Farmer magazine. I simply can’t see why it was so funny.

I have a passion for periodicals.

I stopped buying books years ago because I’m now all about the Kindle. But I do love a periodical. To me, they’re in a different league to magazines (though I do have a penchant for Tatler). They’re beautiful. The cover is thicker, the paper is dense, they’re for keeps.

They’re a celebration of typography, graphic design, illustration and great writing. 

Little pockets of magical mystery knowledge that someone, cleverer and more creative than me, went off and just found. Just for the publishability of it.

A few favourites:

Ernest: a trove that purports to cover curious histories, workmanship, slow adventure, timeless style and wild food. Fair do’s, there’s almost nothing in my life that resembles a ramble, but I do crave a house full of hand-tooled hand tools.

Found: a trove of photography of the stuff people just find. 

And let’s not forget, Modern Farmer. There’s a lot more in there than just ads for tractors. But the best thing is, it has those too. You just never know when you’ll need one.

*In memoriam* Lucky Peach: food porn with smarts. No longer with us, may it rest in peace. 

Lucky Peach

Meditation…in moderation

I’ve always been drawn towards the idea of meditation. Not so much for the spiritual side of it, but more with a view to quieting the mind and gaining greater focus on what’s right in front of me. Like all budding qualitative researchers I go from moderating groups, to writing debriefs, and jumping between projects. I consider meditation an invaluable skill in our line of work.

A few months back I attended a weekend course on Vedic meditation with 20 other individuals. We all signed up for different reasons, but shared an eagerness to learn how to make meditation part of our everyday lives. Since then, I have slowly developed my own practice. It’s still inconsistent – and there are days I don’t manage to find time for it – but I’ve realised that, as with all important things, you have to prioritise it. So I now get out of bed earlier or nip into one of the phone booths at work during lunch. I’ve noticed that when I do this my mind is clearer and I feel even more engaged with what I am doing.

Throughout this process I’ve started to wonder whether there are techniques or tools that could be derived from meditation, or indeed mindfulness, which could be used in qualitative research.

While I can’t imagine any scenario where we would ask respondents to sit and meditate before a group(!), I did attend AQR Spark’s Stop, Breathe, and Be (a mindfulness for moderators workshop). There we were asked to close our eyes while eating a piece of popcorn and to focus our thoughts on what we were experiencing. Going around the group afterwards, many felt they were recalling a deeper response where they were able to more clearly articulate their thoughts on the experience. I left feeling that there might be potential to incorporate similar techniques into our qualitative work. For example, focussing the minds of respondents on the task or topic at hand, or perhaps using it as a warm-up task in client workshops.

But the courage is in having the conviction to try it out! While meditation and mindfulness have a greater awareness and presence in today’s mainstream consciousness, there is a sense (I would argue) that it’s still something associated with ‘hippy’ culture. Thus it would be hard to sell to clients as a qualitative technique or a valid thing to spend five minutes of a focus group on. My hope is that, over time, we will start to draw in techniques from other similar disciplines to enhance the quality of the conversations we have and, ultimately, the insights we deliver to our clients.

crystal ball

 

Is ‘clean’ a dirty word?

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 13.52.23

In 2016, #cleaneating was all the rage. In fact, it was the most Googled diet term last year and became a social media sensation. But it seems that the tide is turning with a steady slew of criticism directed at this movement.

The recent Clean Eating – the Dirty Truth  BBC2 documentary goes some way to discredit this way of eating. It does it by focussing on the lack of evidence behind its ‘pseudoscience’, with celebrities and bloggers looking to distance themselves from it.

Jumping on the bandwagon, KFC released a spoof video announcing the launch of a ‘clean eating burger’ (in fact, their new Dirty Louisiana burger). KFC is tapping into a growing fatigue around the #cleaneating trend. How patronising to imply that if you’re not eating spiralised boiled chicken or raw baby kale that you’re eating ‘dirty’!

It’s interesting to see a brand taking a stance against the health revolution rather than just adapting. For brands that lack any real health associations or credentials, the way forward may well be to stay true to their DNA by embracing and celebrating our indulgent moments and guilty pleasures with consumers. Why not give to us what so many of us (secretly!) want? A good old fashioned ‘dirty’ burger, not a flavourless healthy spin-off.

Here at Razor, we are busy updating our ‘Healthy Eating’ segmentation and are mindful of how easy it is to get swept up in all this health hype. We can’t forget about the mass of less-engaged or disciplined ‘healthy’ eaters that exist – or those ‘naughty’ moments we choose not to broadcast on Instagram that are often ‘forgotten’ about!

Which brands are talking to us then?  


KFC-new-burger-773142