Get to know hipsters to learn what’s going to be hot in 2015, says Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski.
- Craft beers: From obscure US imports to London’s own Beavertown brewery, sweet and hoppy beers are perfect for any get-together.
- Cupcakes: Red velvet or salted caramel, there’s much more to the cupcake in 2015 than you might think.
- Pulled pork: The gourmet burger may still be the king of hipster fast-foods but slow-cooked and smoky pork is its closest challenger.
- Kale: Full of nutritional benefits, kale is the hipster health food of choice.
- Apple products: Despite crippling rents, no hipster would be without their £750 MacBook Air.
Who represents the best hope for a prosperous wholesale future? According to the latest on-trend economics tome, The Flat White Economy, it’s none other than the much-maligned hipster.
With their thick-rimmed glasses, large, well-trimmed beards and predilection for provenance-rich foods, hipsters have colonised pockets of cities, from London and Glasgow to Berlin and Melbourne.
Their favourite drink, the milky but strong ‘flat white’ coffee, inspired economist Douglas McWilliams’ celebratory analysis of this demographic – a group, he says, who have ‘surreptitiously changed the whole nature of London – and to some extent the UK economy’.
Why? Because the young, mobile, tech-savvy and ambitious hipsters are the trendsetters of today. Not as wealthy as the champagne-swigging, coke-snorting yuppies of the 1980s, today’s economic poster children look for novel, niche, but affordable goods.
As McWilliams told The Guardian in March, “they can’t price their styles out of the market, so to keep ahead they have to keep changing.”
This explains their passion for craft beers, artisan sourdough breads and organic local vegetables – which is where the opportunity for wholesalers emerges.
One company already benefiting from this is JW Filshill International. An offshoot of wholesaler JW Filshill, its Craft Beer Clan venture connects dozens of small brewers across Scotland with eateries and retailers in this country and worldwide.
According to Chris Miller, the company’s head of export and commercial operations, it is quickly becoming the “go to wholesaler distributing craft beer” in Scotland.
“There’s a great opportunity for wholesalers to tap into this trend,” he says. These customers “expect artisan-style foods to be available in pubs, restaurants and good independent retailers”, a need which craft beers fit snuggly alongside.
The passion felt by consumers gives the Craft Beer Clan – and the retailers and restaurants with which it works – opportunities to add further value to its service, with food-matching guides, tasting notes and information on the producers it works with.
However, you have to go to Hackney, the heart of hipster London, to see the full effect the flat white economy can have on the channel.
Last May, the independent retailers behind Spar Walthamstow (judged to be one of the world’s best c-stores by NACS, the association for convenience and fuel retailing) took on a derelict snooker hall in the east London borough. Here, they created Spar Hackney, a c-store complete with a café-restaurant where, yes, flat whites are available – made with beans roasted less than 1km from the store – as well as craft, niche and local products available for almost every category.
The store is understandably a great source of pride for Spar boss Debbie Robinson, who says that she’s a fan of hipster staples such as pop-up shops and street food. Spar Hackney embodies how she sees the future of her business.
“The next evolution in food service will be licences for on-trade. Spar has the first convenience store in the country with this at Spar Hackney, where you can have a bottle of beer or glass of wine with your burger.”
So, a future built on the flat white economy will likely mean a more transparent, ethically-conscious supply chain, a greater emphasis on knowledgeable service in-depot to stoke the passions of customers, and quick responses to new trends.
Yet, look at the businesses already catering to this demographic and you’ll see the opportunities for profit (and to have fun) are enormous, too.