From the August 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

You don't have to be a purple dinosaur to realize that kids are keen on entertainment programs. Anyone familiar with the laws of the TV jungle, however, knows phenomena of Barneyesque proportions are a rare breed.

But this isn't scaring off the powers behind "Jelly Bean Jungle" (JBJ). First telecast last September, the show-which combines live-action performers with puppets and costumed characters-is generating some big-time buzz. It's enough to make you wonder if Jessica the Giraffe, Gus the Gorilla, Al the Alligator and King Rufus the Lion will one day be as familiar to the tot brigade as, well, you-know-who.

"We certainly hope [the show] will be the next Barney," enthuses Laura King, vice president of Sunshine KidVid Entertainment, the Hollywood, Florida, company producing "JBJ." "We think it has the potential."

They're not alone. Airing on some 100 TV stations nationwide, "JBJ" is also being syndicated internationally. And ERTL Toys has acquired a master license for "JBJ" toys. There's also talk of video and CD-ROM tie-ins.

Jungle fever . . . it seems to be catching.

Smart Cookies

They're the ultimate in dessert sidekicks. They're the perfect accompaniments to coffee, ice cream or cold milk. And whether they're sold bakery fresh or prepackaged, cookies are an ever-so-popular impulse purchase. In fact, the Retailer's Bakery Association (RBA) rates cookies the top spur-of-the-moment choice for supermarket bakery customers.

OK, so you've probably never heard anyone lament the unpopularity of cookies. Thanks in no small part to the specialty coffee industry, however, there seems to be rising acceptance of delicacies like biscotti, in addition to renewed interest in old favorites such as chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.

"Cookies are a comfort food," says Meredith Rossin, 26-year-old founder of Five Star Cookie Co. in Brookline, Massachusetts. The fledgling company, which specializes in making late-night cookie deliveries to college dormitories, has enjoyed enough success in its first two years to cultivate a nationwide following through mail order.

According to RBA estimations, sales of low-fat or no-fat cookies in supermarkets grew by more than $200 million last year. But in Rossin's experience, you have to give people what they want-and they don't necessarily want healthy cookies. "Ultimately, when you want comfort food, you don't want fake fat," she says.

Whichever way they crumble, though, it's clear cookies are near and dear to our hearts: Business Trend Analysts in Commack, New York, predicts U.S. cookie manufacturers will record sales close to $6 billion by 2004. How sweet it is. . . .

Trend Tracking

Then you think about trends, you probably think about Faith Popcorn. As the chairperson of BrainReserve Inc., a New York City marketing consulting firm specializing in trends, Popcorn has made a name for herself forecasting the world of tomorrow. With two books to her credit-The Popcorn Report and Clicking (both HarperCollins)-Popcorn is a woman with her finger firmly on the pulse of American culture. What's her secret for discerning the hot properties of the future from the also-rans?

As it turns out, there's no easy answer to that question. "It's not a science," says Popcorn of her life's work. "It's truly an art."

That said, however, Popcorn did share with Entrepreneur some insights into trends in general and her trend-tracking process in particular. The following-the first in an occasional series of trend expert profiles-are excerpts from our exclusive interview with Popcorn.

On business's recognition of the value of trend tracking: "I think a lot of the smarter [businesspeople] understand it. I got 40,000 responses from people [who read The Popcorn Report] and told me, 'I used these trends to completely change my business and my life.' "

On culture monitoring: "We're constantly looking around and seeing not what is, but what it means." Popular movies and TV shows, bestselling books, consumer eating and shopping habits, and magazines are all fodder for BrainReserve forecasts.

On recommended reading lists: "We tell our clients to read something they're not [already] reading. You need to enlarge your perspective. It's like wearing 3-D glasses-as soon as you put those trend glasses on, you really know how to view something."

On the importance of fads: "Many times, fads point to trends. Why do people put streaks in their hair, pierce themselves and wear tattoos, for example? [It's what we term] the 'fantasy adventure trend'-people looking for a little safe adventure."

On turning a deaf ear to the skeptics: "The hardest part of my business is to stay clear [of skeptics] and not change my view because people may [disagree]."

On The Sports

We've been seeing lots of spots lately-on jackets, shirts, dresses, pants, vests, hats, suspenders, purses . . . you name it. Unless the fashion industry has been overtaken by a pack of fanatical dog lovers, this spot frenzy is almost certainly a reaction to the scheduled November release of Walt Disney Studios' live-action movie "101 Dalmatians."

Although details were sketchy at press time, we can tell you the upcoming feature stars Glenn Close as the diabolical Cruella DeVil. And no, we don't think we're barking up the wrong tree when we predict Disney's marketing might well hit the-you saw this one coming, right?-spot.

In related news, a source at Disney confirms the company's planned 1998 release of an animated version of "Tarzan." Loincloth, anyone?

Diving Force

Dive in, the water's fine! With the recent surge in adventure travel-not to mention a wave of diving-related programming on cable television-scuba diving is surfacing as the sport of choice among upscale consumers eager to get their fins-er, feet-wet.

"The trend of consumers wanting to go and lie on the beach all day is kind of passé in a lot of places," says William Cline, president of Cline Group Advertising, a scuba industry consultancy in Richardson, Texas. "People want to have something active to do."

Active . . . and aesthetic. Unlike land-based sports, scuba offers participants entree into the exotic world of sea life. Indeed, excursions allowing divers to get up close and personal with dolphins and (in controlled settings) sharks are luring schools of scuba devotees.

And this $2.6 billion industry is more than a flash in the pan. "[The scuba industry] growth rate runs between 5 percent and 10 percent every year," says Cline.

At present, there are some 2,400 dive retailers servicing close to 3 million divers nationwide. If that isn't enough to give you a rush, consider this: The average diving enthusiast spends an estimated $3,500 every year on dive-related travel expenses. What's more, nontravel expenditures enrich the industry by nearly $700 million annually.

What more proof do you need that this industry is going swimmingly?

Big Appetite

Want more? Apparently, you're not alone. As if to disprove the notion that less is more, consumers are increasingly gravitating toward bigger portions of foods and beverages. Consider it the upsizing of the nation.

"People think there's just more value with a larger serving size," says Anita Hersh, president of Lister Butler Inc., a New York City-based corporate and brand identity consultancy firm. "This is America-and bigger is better!"

By way of example, Hersh points to hulking boxes of cereal, gigantic containers of coffee, 20-ounce-plus bottled iced teas and enormous movie-theater buckets filled with popcorn. And no, your eyes aren't deceiving you: Twenty percent of the restaurateurs in a recent National Restaurant Association survey reported using larger plates these days.

We must warn you, however, not to get too big-headed. At the same time that hefty food portions are hot, many restaurateurs are winning over customers with appetizer-sized meals. Go figure.

Contact Sources

BrainReserve Inc., 1 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010, (212) 481-8580;

Business Trend Analysts, 2171 Jericho Tpke., Commack, NY 11725-2900, (516) 462-5454;

Cline Group Advertising, 2530 Big Horn Dr., Richardson, TX 75080, (214) 644-5992;

Five Star Cookie Co., (617) 731-8844;

Lister Butler Inc., 475 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10017, (212) 951-6100;

Retailer's Bakery Association, 14239 Park Center Dr., Laurel, MD 20707, (301) 725-2149;

Sunshine KidVid Entertainment, 1915 Harrison St., Hollywood, FL 33020, (954) 929-6902.