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Happy 2022 to all our readers and welcome to the fourth season of the Future Trends Blog. We first started penning pieces on interesting topics that caught our eye in 2019. All previous posts can be found here.

Many of us are probably glad to be back at work again, the festive season now not only a blur but also a distant memory. In many households – particularly those with children – gifts form a centrepiece of the occasion. In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek opening Blog piece to the year, here are a few of the items your author ‘wished’ he had received. On a more serious note, they provide a very good indication into some of the themes that are likely to be topical over the coming 12 months.

1: Oculus headsets were all the rage this Christmas. Maybe it’s the ‘Zuckerberg effect’ that we are all now thinking of Facebook as Meta, but the number-one downloaded app in the US on Christmas Day was Oculus. Similarly, the most-downloaded game was Roblox. For those unfamiliar, the former is a virtual reality headset while the latter is an immersive gaming platform. Both represent segues to metaverse environments becoming a potentially bigger part of our lives. We believe that metaverses may be the new platforms in which consumers and businesses interact, but development is unlikely to be linear and it is far from clear at this stage whether Meta will emerge as the clear winner. 

2: Smart toys also proved to be very popular: like the sound of a toy kitchen and market set that is Alexa-enabled, or perhaps a smart globe that tells children handy facts about the world when they tap certain places? Well, you won’t be the only one. More and more companies are pioneering innovation in this direction with the smart toy market currently growing at a ~30% rate. This trend speaks to one we have discussed regularly, namely the digitalisation of everything. Software is eating (and will continue to eat) the world. While this clearly brings many convenience benefits, users need evidently to be aware of privacy and cybersecurity concerns.

3: 3D-printed salmon, anyone? The world needs to reduce its dependency on land animal-based protein. While bugs (an oft-discussed topic of ours in 2021) may not be to everyone’s taste, there is a compelling case for eating more salmon. It has a lower carbon footprint than other comparable proteins and is also high in vitamins and minerals. Even better, of course if no actual salmon are killed and you can produce a product that looks and tastes very similar. Revo Foods, an Austrian-based start-up has launched a range of products, made from plant-based substrates. Beyond selected stores and restaurants in Austria, the ‘fish’ went on sale in Denmark and Spain just prior to Christmas. Expect more geographic expansion in 2022. Sustainability clearly remains top of mind for many consumers and businesses With this in mind, the supermarket’s meat aisle may soon be a thing of the past, replaced instead by the protein aisle.

Finally, spare a thought for the fact that with an estimated 3bn+ parcels shipped in the US alone over the recent holiday season, there are bound to be a few disappointed people. Unprecedented online ordering naturally implies unprecedented levels of returns. UPS has said that it expects to process more than 60m returns before the end of this month. Crossing the digital Rubicon also highlights the need for better supply chain logistics and more warehouse space.

7 January 2022

Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

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