Bitcoin, veganism and superfast phones: The biggest trends for 2018

The last 12 months was all Hollywood scandals, Brexit stalemate and Trump's tweets, with only David Attenborough delivering some escapism in the form of Blue Planet II. So what can we expect from 2018? The forecasting company JWT Intelligence has been busy predicting the hot topics we'll all be talking about in the next 12 months. So grab a bottle of sherry and raise your glasses to toast the trends of the next 365 days.

Bitcoins are set to challenge traditional currency.

Female gaze: Rise of women directors

Wonder Woman made headlines for not only for being the first DC/ Marvel superhero film to feature a female protagonist, but also because its director, Patty Jenkins, is one of only three women to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100m. The film’s success again ignited the discussion about the need for more female directors, writers and producers and with door now ajar it is likely to be wedged open next year. Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images: “A female director will most likely shoot the same scene in an entirely different way and with a different perspective – one that takes into account female ambition, desire, fantasy, agency, not to mention realistic physiology. ”

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Sunday service: Religion makes a comeback

A study this year revealed that half of all Brits didn’t identify with any particular religion, but in 2018 the tide may turn. After years of consumers turning more secular, religion is making a comeback. The trend is perhaps most surprising in China where various forms of religion from Buddhism to Christianity are flourishing with the tacit approval of the government following years of persecution. It’s not just in Asia, the world over rapid social changes are leading to a yearning among many for a new moral compass and a sense of identity and community. “There’s been a lot of wrenching social change,” says Ian Johnson, author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao, published in 2017. “It’s almost as if people need to look around and evaluate what values we believe in.”

Streaming wars: TV channels hot up

The days when TV watching was a simple choice between four channels are long gone. And in 2018, the original disruptors of the entertainment market like Netflix will face a challenge from a wave of new start up streaming service. YouTube Red, a paid for ad-free streaming service, is currently only available in the US, but features original content from both YouTubers and networks. The platform features a range of live and recorded shows in sections such as Most Talked About and What’s Making People Laugh. Crucially, the experience is also interactive as users can comment and react to the content. A start-up called Screening Room wants to bring movies that are still playing in cinemas to the home. The service, which again will initially be available in the US, plans to charge $50 for a 48-hour rental.

Highspeed internet: 5G arrives on mobiles

Fifth generation mobile phone networks will start to roll out in the next two years and every device maker worth its salt is staking out its turf. It is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G which would allow a full-length HD movie to be downloaded in just seconds and it will also revolutionise the internet of things by allowing devices from cars to refrigerators to traffic lights to send and receive large amounts of data almost instantaneously. Brands such as Apple, Nokia, Samsung, Verizon and Ericsson are all deep in 5G research, with the latter having recently held a showcase to demonstrate how 5G has the potential to transform energy, manufacturing, healthcare and transport.

Final frontier: Space travel takes off

Will 2018 be the year the luxury space tourism takes off? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is the founder of Blue Origin, a private flight services company that promised to take tourists into space by April 2019, thinks so and he is not the only entrepreneur lining up to the corner what could be a very lucrative market. Bezos is in competition with Elon Musk’s SpaceX which already has its first travellers lined up for a round-the-moon trip this year. Meanwhile, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic received a $1bn investment to make its dreams of creating scheduled human spaceflight a reality. Arizona-based World View also recently successfully deployed a balloon 15 miles above the Earth’s surface, heralding the possibility of high-altitude sightseeing trips, so space seems to have captured the public’s imagination

No vacancies: Airbnb goes large

Having proved it can disrupt the hotel sector, Airbnb now has bigger plans. Last year the company launched Trips, a platform which enables hosts to offer local experiences and in September it partnered with booking app Resy to allow guests to discover and book restaurants on holiday. And there is more. The company is also rumoured to be planning to launch branded apartments. According to the Financial Times a 300-unit building in Florida will open next year for frequent travellers. The building will have secure storage options and onsite cleaners to make subletting simple. If it works, expect to see a rash of similar developments.

Meat-free: Veganism goes mainstream

Vegan food is crossing into the mainstream like never before. Last year at least 542,000 Britons considered themselves vegan, up from about 150,000 10 years ago, and it seems more than a passing fad. And major restaurants and food chains are catching on. Pizza Hut is currently piloting vegan cheese in five of its branches and McDonald’s has launched its first McVegan burger featuring a soy-based patty. In the UK, Nando’s has launched two vegan burger and wrap options, while Wagamama has launched a full vegan and vegetarian menu. According to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK rose by 360 per cent over the past decade.

Clear heads: Teetotal cocktails hit bars

While Britain may have a reputation for its binge-drinking culture, it seems something could quite literally be in the water in 2018. The global alcohol market saw a sluggish 2015, by comparison the global non-alcoholic beverage market is projected to reach $1.6trillion by 2025, up from more than $967bn in 2016. Cocktail bars are also working to attract trendy teetotalers. Enter Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit distilled from herbs. It contains no alcohol, but the taste calls to mind a liquor elevating the mocktail experience. Similarly, the Skipton based Temperance Spirit Company, which makes non-alcoholic gin has been going great guns since it launched a few years ago.

Taste of Spain: Sherry new drink of choice

For those yet to have their head turned by a non-alcoholic lifestyle, prepare for a taste of sherry. Following craft ale and gin, sherry is the latest beverage to experience the artisan treatment. British wine merchant Majestic Wine has reported a 46 per cent overall growth in sherry sales since August 2016 with premium varieties showing growth of 71 per cent. Our own wine correspondent highlighted the trend last year, saying: “Sherry has fashionable once again, but with a difference. It rejoices in its proper names of manzanilla, fino, amontillado and oloroso. Even better, those ridiculous glasses that allowed no room for swirling and aromas have been – or should have been – consigned to the charity shop to be replaced by small white wine glasses that allow the sherry to be swirled and aromas appreciated.”

Clean fatigue: Food fads shown the door

Hurrah, in 2018 we should all be able to wave goodbye to one of the most infuriating trends of recent years. The obsession with puritanical food and beauty may well be over. This year the backlash began against some of the more out there advice published on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website. A self-styled paean to “clean” wellness, beauty, and nutrition it found a serious opponent in both the likes of the British Dietetic Association and nutritionists from King’s College which rebutted Goop claims that cucumbers are dangerous and could cause both dementia and arthritis. While consumers remain concerned about the levels of chemicals in products there’s evidence that they growing weary of outlandish claims.

Skin deep: Hemp beauty products hit shelves

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive substance found in hemp plants, and is reputed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging benefits for the skin. It’s cropping up in a number of skincare lines, including Herb Essntls, a line of cannabis seed oil-infused skincare products with crisp, modern packaging. Mainstream brands are joining in. Lush’s Jasmine and Henna Fluff-Eaze is blended with hemp oil, while The Body Shop’s Hemp range says it delivers heavy-duty hydration for very dry skin.

Open banking: Transactions go online

From January, open banking will massively disrupt the UK’s finance sector providing a glimpse of the banking industry’s future. This new initiative will mean data from the largest banks will be shared openly with third parties for the first time. This will open the door for new apps that let consumers compare banks and services and will lead to a glut of start-ups creating more personalised products based on an individual’s detailed transaction history. Open banking sets the standard for propelling the fintech industry forward. If successful, banks will shift to providing more modular and personalised services tailored to customers rather than serving as one-stop shop.

Spirit of adventure: Travellers seek luxpeditions

Forget a two-week package deal to the Costas, a new breed of luxury is emerging in which traditional comforts are exchanged for physical and intellectual challenges. UK-based travel specialist Brown and Hudson creates meticulously planned bespoke ‘luxpeditions’ that promise transformational experiences in remote destinations, including North Korea, Panama and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Then there is the Extraordinary Adventure Club which invites travellers to test their physical and mental boundaries in order to build ‘renewed and lasting self-confidence’. Founder Calum Morris draws upon his Royal Marine experiences to combine coaching, mentoring and therapy over a minimum of six months.

Just smashing: Destruction therapy makes a mark

Citizens of Hong Kong are famously stressed out. However, recently they have been encouraged to let it out by heading to a placed called Ikari Area to smash household appliances and bottles in an abandoned office. Founder Isaac Ho Siu Tung, a 28-year-old musician, said: “Hong Kong people have so much anger. Although I think they come here more for fun, I still think it helps people.” Elsewhere, rage rooms are providing an outlet for those living in a fast-paced, high-stress times and they are now dovetailing with the trend for immersive entertainment. The first one in the UK has just arrived in London.

Adrenaline rush: Virtual reality theme parks

Forget roller coasters and candy floss, virtual reality theme parks are set to breathe new life into outdoor entertainment venues. Games include Ghostbusters Dimension in which players battle stone gargoyles that come to life and Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire which transports players to the molten planet of Mustafar to recover intelligence. With adrenalin junkies demanding more and more thrills, the trend is set to inject new life into old-fashioned theme parks. Alton Towers has combined VR with a flying roller coaster in Galactica which gives riders the sensation they are travelling through space.

Purple reigns: World turns to ultra violet

Pantone has just unveiled its colour for 2018 and if right, everywhere you look in 2018 will be a shade of ultra violet. “Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance,” said a rather wistful Pantone spokesman. “Musical icons Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of ultra violet to the forefront of western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 ultra violet symbolises experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world and push boundaries.” You heard it here first.

Gold rush: Bitcoin challenges cash

The hype over virtual currencies like bitcoins has reached fever pitch and proponents reckon it is now just a matter of figuring out how to regulate the digital currencies. “It is still like the Wild, Wild West,” said Paul Kittiwongsunthorn, co-founder of a Singapore company that has made cryptocurrencies easier to spend. “Going forward, regulation is really needed. You don’t want to stop innovation but you also want to protect people from bad things.” This October cryptocurrency edged closer to the mainstream financial system when the clearing and trading platform LedgerX opened for business, opening up the possibility of large-scale trading by traditional banks.

Capital gains: Post-Brexit boom for European cities

As Brexit proceedings continue, new cities in Europe are set to gain prominence as financial and cultural capitals. Frankfurt has emerged as the destination of choice for many London banks looking to relocate staff in order to continue serving European customers. Deutsche Bank predicts that 5,000 new residents might settle in Frankfurt as a result of Brexit-related job moves. Goldman Sachs and Silicon Valley Bank are both focusing on the German city. Not to be outdone, Paris is also vying for banks that are relocating. President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to cut the corporate tax rate by 25 per cent by the end of his term in 2022. Politico reported in summer 2017 that the European Union is considering a lavish new multi-million-euro building in Paris.