In his book The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell discusses the phenomenon of social epidemics such as the windstorm we came to know as the low-carb craze. He demonstrates, case by case, how mass social acceptance or rejection can occur from the most menial decisions or mistakes that snowball until everyone is wearing penny loafers, dancing the Macarena and eating low-carb cookies while watching American Idol. Small changes in human behavior can cause quickly spreading fads.
Gladwell uses the term “tipping point” to describe the moment when a behavior gains enough momentum to become a fad. Although he provides cases showing just how unintentional it can be at times, Gladwell also hypothesizes that the tipping point can very well be deliberate.
It is this strategic growth that food marketers are hoping to emulate as they launch new products based on the consistent trends in the food industries. Everyone knows that convenience is “hot.” You will never hear someone say, “It doesn't take me nearly as long as it should to prepare my dinner. I want to be in the kitchen for hours.” Similarly, “healthy” could not get any more popular, and every food trade show you attend this year likely will suggest that Hispanic cuisines soon will be flooding the market. I am sure all of these trends will continue to grow. They are expected to.
The real mystery is how, in any of these categories, can one product break away from all of the rest? The answer to that may not be found in a grocery store, a trade show or even the 60th floor boardroom. The tipping point will not necessarily need to be linked to food consumption to influence food trends. The answer will abound in ordinary people, places and events.
Although some successes are phenomena, the ones that grow steadily over many years are generally far more successful. Regardless of the weather variations from day to day, the seasons are unchanging. Fads get their 15 minutes of fame, but a legacy may span many lifetimes.