TPIE Keynote Maxwell Luthy Turns Trends Into Opportunities


Maxwell Luthy

Maxwell Luthy, Director of Trends & Insights for TrendWatching, showed how to turn trends into business prospects for attendees of the 2018 Tropical Plant International Expo keynote address. Luthy’s presentation covered a broad, cross-industry view of evolving consumer trends for 2018 and beyond.


“You can’t find out what the customer of tomorrow wants by asking them today,” Luthy said in his opening remarks.

Instead of talking about trends specific to the green industry, Luthy took a broader approach, focusing on five overall consumer trends that reach across all markets. Here’s a recap of his remarks.

1. Ambient Wellness

Time-strapped and even lazy consumers are embracing brands that show physical and mental wellness. Potted plants are well-placed to help with ambient wellness, Luthy said. He offered examples of product offerings such as copper-infused bedsheets, living walls to purify air, pots with mosquito-repellant ink, and wellness-focused hotel rooms.

2. Inner Journeys

Consumers have newism fatigue. They’re finding that buying something new doesn’t always solve their problems, so they’re starting to look backward to past practices. Businesses are taking note of modern consumers’ hunger for old-fashioned forms of self-discovery and offering timeworn techniques and practices addressed through new innovations.

Good examples Luthy shared are the Vild MAD (means wild food in Danish) app that teaches people how to forage, DNA-based adventures through and 23 and me, and a biodegradable urn planter that allows people to grow a tree from their loved one’s ashes.

3. Cultural Creditors

Consumers are tired of a global monoculture where they can get the same types of products just about everywhere. They want to break away from that and buy unique or local items that are different from what everyone else has. They’re also more sensitive than ever before about companies having respect for diversity and other cultures and the dynamics that come into play when brands interact with traditions and cultures.

Luthy gave examples of this concept through furniture retailers working with African artists, Corona’s “Mexico Extra” product to raise money to help with reconstruction after Mexico’s earthquake, and The Sioux Chef, a non-profit organization that is helping to revitalize Native American cuisine.

Luthy asked attendees what they could do to better credit, champion, and celebrate the cultures their company draws from, and encouraged them to share the history of their products, including plant heritage.

4. Tribefacturing

We have seen sweeping generalizations over the years about generations’ preferences and tendencies. Consumers are looking to shake off those conventions and construct different lifestyles outside of the norm. Urbanization and the global brain (our hyper-connected flow of ideas and culture thanks to smartphones and the internet) are driving factors for this movement. As a result, businesses are targeting tribes or groups of consumers who share a passion, ideas, hobbies, etc. Luthy said these tribes are waiting for businesses to recognize and serve their values and interests.

Examples Luthy gave of businesses reaching out to tribes include Ikea providing open-source plans for makers to build an urban vegetable garden, Okawa Kagu’s miniature pet beds, and Momma Pots hosting an event that combines yoga classes and succulent customization.

5. A-Commerce

Customer interactions are changing with the emerging era of automated commerce. Outsourcing is at the forefront of customers’ minds. Luthy shared a statistic indicating that within a few short years, consumers will be handing over almost every element of sourcing, bargaining, and purchasing of products and services to someone else. This will result in end-to-end automation that will be a total market disruption across all industries.

He gave several examples of companies that are starting to offer these types of services such as Roofr, a company that analyzes the state of roofs through satellite imagery to determine need for roof repair; Finery, a service that provides a digital closet that organizes outfits and manages purchases; Echo-Look, a voice-activated selfie camera that takes pictures of your outfits and gives fashion recommendations; and Amazon’s recent patent for a service that makes plant recommendations for consumers’ gardens.

Today’s consumers live in a fast-paced, fast-changing environment where businesses are finding innovative ways to meet core needs — love/connection, safety/comfort, significance, growth, etc. — and raise expectations. These expectations transfer across industries and markets. Tracking trends helps you surpass rapidly changing expectations, Luthy said, but it’s a waste of time if you don’t apply it to your business.

You can find out more about Maxwell Luthy and TrendWatching, and sign up for a copy of its free trend enewsletter, at