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How to Leverage Trends With Menu Matters VP

Mike Kostyo

During last week’s SFA Buyers’ Market webinar, “About Understanding Trends: Your Guide to Identifying and Leveraging the Latest Foods, Flavors, & Ingredients,” Mike Kostyo, VP of Menu Matters, explained how businesses can identify trends, track their lifecycle, decide whether they make sense for their brand, and advised how trends can best be leveraged.

“A trend is just a tool for your toolbox,” said Kostyo. “You first have to know who you are, what your brand stands for, and who your customer is and what they want. Once you know those things, you can determine whether a trend, in whatever form that is, is something that supports your business objectives and ultimately, your consumer.”

Quick Bites

Trend vs fad: The key to differentiating between a trend and a fad is that a trend is characterized by sustained growth, whereas a fad tends to have quick growth, and be more short-lasting, explained Kostyo; nevertheless, both trends and fads can have a place in a brand’s market strategy.

Why follow trends?: The expert explained that trends can help ease a brand leader’s cognitive burden by giving more data about the market, enabling one to make a more informed decision. He also explained several other reasons why trends can be useful, including enabling a business to remain competitive.

Why not follow trends?: “Reject more trends than you adopt,” Kostyo explained, adding that trends that lack relevancy or don’t allow a brand to be differentiated in the marketplace are best avoided.


“Identifying trends is a lot of work,” said Kostyo. He added that it requires a lot of reading and research and advised brands to use their own experience within their niche as a starting point, taking advantage of industry research and food shows to help brands identify trends that are relevant to them.

“You can find trends impacting consumers in a range of markets that can still be relevant to you,” he said. Setting Google alerts and blocking out time on a daily or weekly basis to focus on trends can help ensure one’s brand stays informed and relevant in the marketplace.

“In this market, we know that we can’t be complacent,” Kostyo said. Competitors across the industry are likely looking to trends to offer consumers something they want to try, so leaning into meaningful trends can enable a brand to stay competitive.

In order to make the most of a trend, and truly understand the marketplace, Kostyo urged attendees to think critically about a trend, rather than take it at face value. In the video below, he used the rise of ube in an exercise that showed how to think deeper about the characteristics motivating consumer behavior.

To learn more about how to identify and make use of trends, watch the webinar on demand in the SFA Learning Center.