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Top 500 2015 Trends

Sharing Economy Backlash

You might assume companies that are part of the “sharing economy” would play nice. Think again. According to Time magazine, “it’s a semi-regulated, tech-enabled, blatantly capitalistic peer-to-peer business model. Sure, it helps people earn a few bucks or get services cheaper than usual, but…[it] can be brutally cut-throat in the way seemingly everything and everyone can be monetized.”
If you have a mind to become a “sharing entrepreneur,” you should probably consider the following complaints:
Sabotage. Ride-sharing competitors Uber and Lyft have been accused of “tech’s fiercest rivalry,” including strategies like cash bonuses to lure drivers from one company to the other, and booking—then canceling—thousands of rides.
Surge pricing. Uber, in particular, has been known to bump rates in times of high demand. Natural disasters, emergencies and even large gatherings and events have led to drastic temporary rate increases.
Unethical guests. Sharing your home can be problematic when visitors refuse to show common courtesy or respect the space. Complaints have ranged from illegal activities and orgies to squatters.
Wrecking the housing market. Landlords in desirable, touristy destinations have been accused of turning homes and apartments into quasi-hotels, even evicting long-term tenants in favor of more lucrative, short-term contracts. Needless to say, in both of these last two cases, permanent neighbors are none too happy.
Illegal currency trading. Depending where you are in the world, it can be illegal to conduct business in a non-national currency. But that’s exactly what can happen when contracting through an American-based (and, therefore, dollar-based) sharing company.
Ruining wages. Cab drivers have rallied the cause here, but the competitive nature of sharing commoditizes all sorts of skills and services, eventually devaluing workers in myriad industries.

Shopping for Good

There’s a growing number of consumers (more than 2 billion globally) seeking to unite style, social status and sustainability through their purchases these days, and researchers at BBMG and GlobeScan have coined the term “aspirationals” to describe them.
“Driven by young, optimistic consumers in emerging markets and amplified by technology and social media’s influence, aspirationals represent a powerful shift in sustainable consumption from obligation to desire,” said Raphael Bemporad, co-founder and chief strategy officer at brand innovation consultancy BBMG.
Many aspirationals are reclaiming used goods to create their own products and services, while established companies are making moves to engage them. An example is Santa Rosa-based Indigenous, which is a fair trade retailer that created the Fair Trace Tool, enabled by a QR code on its hang tags. Users can scan the code to learn about the item’s origins, artisans and social impact. Another example is San Francisco-based WE’VE, which focuses on transparency for all its “consciously crafted” products.
“By engaging aspirational consumers, brands can further the shift toward more sustainable consumption and influence behavior change at scale,” adds Eric Whan, sustainability director at GlobeScan.
By making conscious choices regarding our purchases, the prospect of a sustainable, more prosperous future across the globe—and close to home—is certainly within reach.

Eat This! (Not That.)

The North Bay is known as a foodie mecca, so without further ado, here are some new food trends for 2015:
Protein. Paleo is the new Atkins. Also, look for protein being extracted from an increased number of nonanimal sources, such as rice and peas.
Dark chocolate. It’s high in flavonoids, has less sugar and is great for the brain. It’s time to challenge your sweet tooth and rethink the candy bar.
Transparency. Consumers are looking for foods that are simply raised and prepared with clear, honest labeling. Basically, shoppers want a better idea about ingredients and origin of food.
Home chefs. Cooking has evolved beyond a chore. Today, 26 percent of U.S. consumers claim to have advanced cooking skills, up from 20 percent three years ago. Is it time to invest in some high-end gadgets?
Hot veggies. Last year’s sweetheart kale is now making way for other uncommon choices, such as seaweed, parsnips and Brussels sprouts—not just as a dinner side, but also served dried and seasoned as snacks.


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