J-curves explain how consumer preferences change over time. They tell the story of how, initially, reduced cost and standardization create markets. Ultimately, this leads to homogeneous and bland products. At this point, consumers start demanding choice and quality–premiumization begins.
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Over time, we have seen a constant evolution in the structure and offerings of every enduring industry. We set out to understand whether most markets follow the same path of industry progression, but with different timelines.
The J-curve framework outlines this shared path, beginning with the artisan stage, moving toward mass production until reaching homogeneity, where all products are the same. The premiumization stage, marking the curve in the J, represents the revival of artisanship and consumer choice.
After incorporating the Golder-Tellis model and Furst’s theory of product choice into the framework, we determined that the shift between the artisan stage and homogeneity is largely governed by economic and demographic factors as well as trade and competition. Meanwhile, the upturn at the premiumization stage is a result of redefined consumer preferences, making consumer insight capabilities essential to the growth of any business beyond homogeneity.