22 | Dec | 11

Richard Johnson

Food For Thought

Faith Popcorn wants to know everything about you – and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. From the vermouth in your martini to the groceries in your refrigerator. The world’s leading trend forecaster works from a town house in New York, ‘brailling the culture’. And there’s an awful lot of culture to braille in New York. “I remember driving through Harlem” says Popcorn. “This guy was wearing pants, and – I swear to God – they were the biggest pants I’ve ever seen. They were like a skirt. I stopped and asked if he’d made them himself. By sewing two pairs of pants together. I just had to know. If I understand people then I can really understand the future.”

Her accuracy rate is 95%. Most trend forecasters aren’t in business long enough to even have an accuracy rate. That’s why IBM, American Express and McDonalds fall over themselves to employ her. In America, Popcorn is chat-show famous. Even Oprah wanted to meet the 60-year-old woman who predicted the success of four-wheel drive vehicles and the failure of New Coke. Popcorn was the first to identify the stay-at-home syndrome (which she called ‘cocooning’) and the growth in home delivery, home business and home shopping. Back in 1981 she told companies that, because we were ‘cocooning’, we would buy more Haagen-Dazs and babygros. She was right.

Popcorn’s methods are suitably futuristic. To research ideas she conducts ‘Hypnotrend Probes’, which regress volunteers under hypnosis. After they have signed a release form, of course. She has even employed psychics. “I’m not like Nancy Reagan. I don’t interview psychics, and then predict what’s going to happen. I’m more interested in how people in general feel about psychics”. So it’s no surprise to discover she has a Third Eye – although you wouldn’t know it to look at her. It exists in only a ‘spiritual’ way. “Every culture talks about an extra sense. Having a Third Eye is like being in the present, but seeing from the future”. Let’s just say that Popcorn is open to whatever is out there.

When I predict rends, it’s hardly “buckle up – we’re on our way to tomorrowland.” I mean, I’ve got a reasonable success rate. I can show you the press cuttings. But I can’t get too excited about this new branch of what’s now being called social anthropology. I need a mission statement that will appeal to the American self-improvement tradition. The same tradition that underpinned Chicken Soup For The Soul, and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And a new name. Richard Johnson is just too dull. “We sell okay in Britain” says Popcorn. “But in Britain you don’t think you need to look forward. Even to tomorrow.”

Popcorn has become a multimillionaire by painstakingly identifying the societal trends of the future, and then giving them cutesy little names. There’s ‘99 Lives’ (we’ll all be busy), ‘Egonomics’ (we’ll all be selfish) and ‘Fantasy Adventure’ (we’ll all be wearing hiking boots). “The 17 trends we have right now seem to be pretty stable” says Popcorn. “If I see something that I cannot fit into the 17 trends, I hang on to it. That will kick me into another trend.” Critics say she is merely selling the blindingly obvious. “Well” she says, “Fortune 500 Chairmen don’t think it’s so obvious” says Popcorn. “Otherwise why would they pay me so much money?”

Here are some of my best guesses for next year. Olive Magazine’s 2012 Food Predictions. If they’re correct, I’ll remind you about them in 12 months time……